Cardinal Joseph Zen appeared in court Tuesday following his arrest and release on May 11th after which authorities confiscated his passport.
The 90-year old cardinal and former bishop of Hong Kong was arrested, along with the four other pro-democracy advocates, on charges of “collusion with foreign forces” under Hong Kong’s national security law. Cardinal Zen and the others were trustees of a now-disbanded fund that covered the legal fees and bail of those arrested in Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests, according to Catholic News Agency.
The five activists now face formal charges of failing to register the fund with the government. If convicted, Cardinal Zen will face a fine of $1,274. These charges do not involve Hong Kong’s national security law, but it remains unclear if the original “collusion” charges will be brought.
All five pleaded not guilty to the formal charges. Cardinal Zen’s trial is set to begin on September 19th.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, barrister Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, scholar Hui Po-keung, ex-lawmaker Cyd Ho, and Sze Ching-wee pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to violating the Societies Ordinance. pic.twitter.com/Yk67vO9y6b
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) May 24, 2022
His September trial will commence around the same time the Vatican will be renewing its controversial agreement with China, a deal greatly criticized by Cardinal Zen. In fact, hours after his appearance in court Tuesday, Cardinal Zen celebrated a Catholic Mass and criticized the Vatican’s deal with China in his remarks, calling it an “unwise decision,” Reuters reported.
During the Mass, he didn’t comment on his situation except to say that it was normal for Catholics to “bear some pain.” Cardinal Zen prayed for “brothers and sisters who cannot attend the mass in any form tonight – for they have no freedom now.”
The Vatican has expressed “concern” and noted that it was following events “with extreme attention.” The Diocese of Hong Kong said in a statement that it will “closely monitor the development of the incident.”
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Image: Cardinal Zen at a forum on National People’s Congress’ interpretation of Hong Kong laws. (Photo credit: Iris Tong, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).