HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Joseph Zen has been ordered to pay a fine, but he has not given up his legal fight.
Zen, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, has appealed the sentence imposed on him last month for allegedly failing to register properly a fund assisting pro-democracy protesters. These demonstrators opposed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) violation of the religious, social, and political freedoms in Hong Kong guaranteed by China’s treaty with Great Britain when the island was handed over to Beijing 25 years ago.
On Nov. 25, a Hong Kong court imposed a fine of HK $4,000 ($512 USD) on Zen, four other trustees, and a secretary of the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. Although the fine is relatively small, paying or not paying it has political significance. Zen’s arrest and trial was widely seen a statement by the CCP that it would no longer tolerate public opposition to the totalitarian restrictions it has been imposing on Hong Kong’s citizens for several years now.
As LifeSiteNews reported at the time, Margaret Ng, one of the trustees and a former opposition legislator, said that the ruling was the first time that residents had faced charges for failing to register a society. “The effect to other people, to the many, many citizens who are associated together to do one thing or another, and what will happen to them, is very important,” she explained.
“It is also extremely important about the freedom of association in Hong Kong under Societies Ordinance,” Ng insisted.
The cardinal has been an outspoken advocate of freedom for the Church, the press, education, and civil life. His arrest and trial, together with those of pro-democracy Catholic journalist Jimmy Lai—who was just handed a six year jail sentence—have drawn international attention and prompted the United States, the European Parliament, and religious liberty watchdogs to issue statements condemning Beijing’s actions.
As LifeSiteNews previously reported, the 612 Fund was created to offer “legal, medical, psychological, and emergency financial assistance” to people involved in the 2019 protests against the government’s Extradition Law Amendment Bill, which sought to allow prisoners to be transferred to mainland China for trial.
“I’m just a Hong Kong citizen who strongly supports providing humanitarian assistance,” Zen told reporters after the court handed down its verdict in November.
According to Reuters, despite the court’s decision, Hong Kong police are investigating Zen further with the potential of prosecuting him on “an accusation of ‘collusion with foreign forces,’” which would place the cardinal under the CCP’s National Security Law, carrying the possibility of a life-long prison sentence.
For a fuller background on the cardinal’s arrest and the legal battles surrounding the 612 Fund, as well as the imposition of the draconian National Security Law by the CCP in Hong Kong, and the Vatican’s renewal of its agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, be sure to read LifeSiteNews previous coverage, including the following stories: