Hong Kong Cardinal Zen released after arrest – on bail

Status: 05/12/2022 07:16 a.m

Former Hong Kong Archbishop Zen has been arrested under the controversial “security law”. He was released on bail a few hours later. Zen is considered a critic of the government in Beijing.

Former Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Zen has been arrested in Hong Kong for alleged violations of the controversial national “security law”. The South China Morning Post newspaper, citing a source, reported that retired Cardinal Zen, former opposition MP Margaret Ng and singer Denise Ho were arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces”.

The three were among five trustees of a relief fund set up to provide financial support to activists involved in the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The fund was closed in 2021, said the UK-based human rights group Hong Kong Watch.

Release on bail

Two men and two women, between the ages of 45 and 90, have been arrested for “conspiracy to cooperate with foreign forces to endanger national security,” police said. They would be released on bail, but their travel documents would be confiscated.

Media reports saw Zen waving to journalists as they exited a police station. He then left the place in a private car without further explanation.

More arrests in Hong Kong

According to Hong Kong Watch, the cultural scientist and university lecturer Hui Po Keung was arrested by the national security police at Hong Kong airport the day before. Human Rights Watch (HRW) China expert Maya Wang said former MP Cyd Ho Sau Lan was also arrested.

They, too, are said to have been involved as trustees in managing the fund that financed legal aid for people who took part in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong two years ago. In the summer of 2020, Beijing then enacted a draconian national “security law” for its special administrative region of Hong Kong, which severely curtailed the political rights of the population. Since then, many supporters of the opposition have either been arrested, withdrawn from politics or fled abroad.

critics of the Chinese leadership

Cardinal Zen is considered a vigorous critic of China and has sharply condemned the 2018 treaty between the Vatican and the People’s Republic on the appointment of Catholic bishops in the country as a sellout of the Chinese underground church. For decades, the Chinese Church has been divided into a so-called Patriotic Association, which is loyal to the state, and an underground church.

Zen, Bishop of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, is one of the most influential representatives of the Catholic Church in Asia in terms of church politics. Well beyond his tenure, the Salesian monk of Don Bosco was one of the prominent critics of the communist leadership in Beijing and its human rights and religious policies. In an interview with the KNA news agency in 2018, he said: “Incredible. How can the Vatican place any hopes in such a government?” He always feared that the Holy See would let the government in Beijing dictate its own actions.

concern in the Vatican

In Rome, the news of the arrest of the 90-year-old caused great concern. “The Holy See was concerned about the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following developments with the greatest attention,” said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni. In a statement, the White House in Washington called for the “immediate release” of those “unfairly arrested and accused”.

Human Rights Watch called the arrests “shocking”. “The arrest of a 90-year-old cardinal for his peaceful activities is a shocking new low for Hong Kong and illustrates the free fall of human rights in the city over the past two years,” HRW staffer Wang told the Hong Kong Free Press portal. It said: “The arrests, which follow the Chinese government’s appointment of former security chief John Lee as the city’s head of government, are an ominous sign that the crackdown in Hong Kong will escalate.”

Former security chief is the new prime minister

The former security minister, who has been loyal to Beijing, was appointed Hong Kong’s new head of government at the weekend. A committee voted for Lee with 99 percent of the votes, and there was no opposing candidate. The 64-year-old played a central role in the crackdown on the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement that mobilized millions in 2019.

“I realize that I will need time to convince the population,” Lee said after his election. “But I will make it through action”. Now that the authorities have “restored order after the chaos,” his goal is to create a Hong Kong “full of hope, opportunity, and harmony.”

Religious freedom under pressure

Since the introduction of the so-called “security law” by China at the end of June 2020, civil liberties, freedom of the press and the rule of law have been suppressed in the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong. Religious freedom is also coming under increasing pressure from the pro-Chinese leadership.

In June 2021, pro-Chinese activists targeted services in seven Catholic churches on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. They placed banners in front of the churches that read “Malicious Cult” and portrayed Cardinal Zen as a horned devil.

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