Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
A group of prominent humanitarian workers, including a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal, have been arrested in Hong Kong and charged with, effectively, behaving as dissidents.
As first reported by The Guardian, Cardinal Joseph Zen, formerly among the higher-ranking Catholic officials in all of Asia, was arrested along with three others in Hong Kong, all on charges of “collusion with foreign forces.”
“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, said during a press conference.
Also arrested were Denise Ho, a singer and actress of some prominence in Hong Kong, as well as pro-democracy politician and attorney Margaret Ng and academician Hui Po-keung.
All four had been working with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, an organization that exists to provide legal, medical, psychiatric, and financial aid to persons arrested or harassed for their pro-democracy stances in Hong Kong, particularly those who participated in 2019 pro-democracy protests.
This organization, though, has been the focal point of Hong Kong authorities, who have used the city’s 2020 national security law to ferret out pro-democracy agitators.
Zen, Ho, and Ng were arrested in-country, while Hui was arrested as he attempted to board a flight for Germany.
The reaction in the United States was one of shock and anger, as both the Department of State and the White House condemned the arrests.
“By arresting Cardinal Joseph Zen, Margaret Ng, Hui Po-keung, and Denise Ho under the National Security Law, Hong Kong authorities have again demonstrated they will pursue all means necessary to stifle dissent and undercut protected rights and freedoms,” U.S. Department of State spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “Hui Po-keung’s arrest at Hong Kong International Airport prior to his departure further indicates local authorities maintain a politically motivated exit ban on certain residents. These individuals served as trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped thousands of arrested Hong Kong democracy protestors access funds for medical aid, legal advice, psychological counseling, and emergency financial relief.”
During a press gaggle en route to Illinois, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We call on [Chinese] and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s advocates and to immediately release who have been unjustly detained and charged, like the Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and others arrested today.”
All four have since been released on bail, but none are allowed to leave Hong Kong and have been forced to surrender their passports.
Cardinal Zen, formerly the bishop of Hong Kong and now retired from the priesthood, has a long history of pushing to expand Christianity in Asia, particularly in China. He is also a fervent supporter of democracy and has often run into resistance both from Chinese officials for his advocacy.
In 2020, Zen made headlines when he was critical of the Catholic Church for its secret dealings with China, a process that ended with an agreement that allowed the church access to China but under murky, limited conditions. The church in China, Zen said, was “schismatic” and operated unlike the remainder of Catholic churches.
At the time, Zen worried China’s ruling party “could use [the agreement] to demand everything from our faithful saying that the Pope has already agreed: e.g. forcing the people from the underground to join the Patriotic Association, to join the independent Church, which is objectively a schismatic Church.”
Zen also has close ties to Jimmy Lai, a tycoon and media owner in Hong Kong who, under the national security law, received a 14-month prison sentence for his role in pro-democracy protests. Lai, a born-again Christian, previously seeded millions of dollars to Zen to help the cardinal fund an underground church.
Both Zen and Lai and numerous other Hong Kong Christians have been routinely chastised by the government and have routinely suffered for the Word.