Hong Kong police release on bail a Catholic cardinal arrested on national security charges

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia’s leading Catholic clergy, and three others who helped run the now-dissolved Hong Kong Fund for Protesters have been arrested for “collusion with foreign forces”. Then he was released on bail.

Zen, a 90-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, was questioned for several hours on Wednesday at Chai Wan Police Station which closed his church residence, before being released on police bail. The silver-haired Zen, who was wearing a white clerical collar, left without making any comment to the media.

The local police said in a statement that its National Security Agency arrested two men and two women, aged between 45 and 90, on charges of “collusion with foreign forces” on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Police said they suspected she had sought foreign sanctions. Police said they were released on bail with their passports confiscated under the National Security Act.

A legal source familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier that five people were arrested in connection with the case: Zain. first attorney Margaret Ng, 74; Activist and pop singer Dennis Ho; ex-MP Syed Ho; and former academic Hui Po-keung.

Zen has long been an advocate for democratic causes in Hong Kong and mainland China, and has spoken out against China’s growing authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping, including Beijing’s national security law, and the persecution of some Roman Catholics in China.

Hoy was arrested at the airport on Tuesday night, according to media reports, while Syed Ho was already in prison over a separate case.

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The five were trustees of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” that helped protesters arrested during pro-democracy and anti-China protests in 2019 to help pay legal and medical fees.

Vatican concern

Hong Kong has long been one of Asia’s most important Catholic bridges, home to an extensive network of relief agencies, scholars, and missions that have supported Catholics in mainland China and elsewhere.

Beijing imposed the Comprehensive National Security Law in June 2020, which punishes terrorism, collusion with foreign forces, sabotage and separatism with life imprisonment.

The Vatican said on Wednesday it had learned of Cardinal Joseph Zen’s arrest in Hong Kong “with concern” and was following developments “with great interest”.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact the others for comment. The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong did not immediately comment.

The Humanitarian Relief Fund 612 was canceled last year after a company that helped receive donations through a bank account was dissolved.

The arrests come after police said last September they had begun investigating the fund over alleged violations of national security law.

The US coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region, Kurt Campbell, said the United States was concerned about the “crackdown” in Hong Kong, including in religious and academic circles.

“All I can say is that I think we are increasingly concerned about steps being taken in Hong Kong to pressure and eliminate civil society,” Campbell said at an online event in Washington when asked about the arrests.

Hui, an associate professor of cultural studies at Lingnan University, had taught exiled democratic activist Nathan Lu.

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

Critics, including the United States, say the security law undermines the freedoms China promised under a “one country, two systems” arrangement when Hong Kong was returned from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997.

But Hong Kong authorities say the law has brought stability to the city after the 2019 mass protests.

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Additional reporting by Jesse Pang, James Pomfret, Greg Torode, Hong Kong Editorial Chamber; Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome and David Bronstrom and Michael Martina in Washington. Editing by Nick McPhee, Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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