Hong Kong Police release Catholic Cardinal arrested on national security charge

HONG KONG, May 11 (Reuters) – Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia’s oldest Catholic clergymen, and three others have been arrested on charges of “collaborating with foreign forces” to help run the now-defunct Hong Kong Fund for Militants. , Was later released on bail.

The 90-year-old former Bishop of Hong Kong was interrogated for several hours Wednesday at the Chai Wan police station near his church home, before being released on police bail. Zen, who has silver hair, wore a white clerk collar and walked out without commenting to the media.

Two men and two women between the ages of 45 and 90 were arrested by the police’s national security department on Tuesday and Wednesday for “collaborating with foreign forces,” local police said in a statement.

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Police said they suspect they heard foreign sanctions. Police said all were released on bail with passports confiscated under the National Security Act.

A legal source familiar with the matter told Reuters that five people had been arrested in connection with the case: Zen; Senior barrister Margaret Ng, 74; Activist and pop singer Denise Ho; Former legislator Sid Ho; And former educator Hui Po-keung.

Zen has long advocated for democratic reasons in Hong Kong and China’s mainland, and spoke out against China’s growing authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping, including the Beijing-imposed national security law and the persecution of some Roman Catholics in China.

Hui was arrested at the airport on Tuesday night, and according to media reports, Sid Ho is already in jail on a separate charge.

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All five were trustees of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund”, which helped pay for the legal and medical bills of protesters arrested during the pro-democracy, anti-Chinese protests in 2019.

The Vatican was involved

Hong Kong has long been one of the most important Catholic beach headquarters in Asia, with an extensive network of aid agencies, scholars and missionaries supporting Catholics on the mainland of China and elsewhere.

Beijing enacted the largest national security law in June 2020, which provides for the imposition of life sentences for terrorism, cooperation with foreign powers, subjugation and secession.

The Vatican said Wednesday it was “anxiously aware” of the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen in Hong Kong and was pursuing progress “with greater vigilance”.

Reuters was not immediately available for comment. The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese did not immediately comment.

The “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” was canceled last year following the dissolution of an organization that helped receive donations through a bank account.

The arrests come after police said last September that they were beginning to investigate funds allegedly violating the National Security Act.

US Indo-Pacific Coordinator Kurt Campbell said the United States was concerned about “tightening” of religious circles and academics in Hong Kong.

“What I can tell you is that I think we are deeply troubled by Hong Kong’s actions to put pressure on civil society and remove them,” Campbell said when asked about the detainees at an online event in Washington.

Hui, an associate professor of cultural research at Lincoln University, once taught exiled Democrat Nathan Law.

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“If you want to punish someone, you can always find a reason,” La wrote on his Facebook page in response to Hui’s arrest.

Critics, including the United States, say that when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule from the British in 1997, the security law undermined the freedom promised by China under the “one country, two institutions” arrangement.

However, Hong Kong officials say the law has brought stability to the city since the 2019 mass protests.

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Jesse Pong, James Pomfred, Greg Doroth and the Hong Kong News Room Report; Additional reporting by Philippe Bullella in Rome, David Brunstrom and Michael Martina in Washington; Editing by Nick McPhee, Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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