Release on bail for cardinal arrested in Hong Kong

The dismantling of the pro-democracy side of Hong Kong added a new chapter yesterday with the arrest of Cardinal Joshep Zen, bishop emeritus of this former British colony and one of the most critical voices in the territory against the Communist Party.

Release on bail for cardinal arrested in Hong Kong

The dismantling of the pro-democracy side of Hong Kong added a new chapter yesterday with the arrest of Cardinal Joshep Zen, bishop emeritus of this former British colony and one of the most critical voices in the territory against the Communist Party. The 90-year-old prelate was arrested along with several other activists suspected of having violated the controversial National Security law imposed in 2020. At midnight, the detainees were released on bail.

The prelate, who was bishop of Hong Kong and appointed cardinal in 2006 to retire three years later, has been characterized by his defense of Christian communities in mainland China against the control exercised by the Beijing government. Over the years, he has also shown strong support for pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, being a regular figure at their marches and demonstrations.

His arrest could affect the already complicated relations between Beijing and the Vatican. After decades without maintaining diplomatic relations, in 2018 they signed an agreement for the appointment of bishops in China. The text was heavily criticized by personalities such as Zen himself, who then accused the Vatican of "selling" the Christian community in China. In a statement, the Holy See yesterday expressed its "concern" about the news and assured to follow "very closely" the evolution of the situation.

Along with him, the police also arrested the singer and LGBT activist Denise Ho and the former pro-Democrat legislator Margaret Ng. All of them were administrators of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, established in 2019 to assist the protesters who participated in the anti-government protests that shook the city for months that year.

Another of its administrators, Professor Hui Po Keung, had been arrested a day earlier when he was about to take a flight to Germany, while the fund's fifth custodian, legislator Cyd Ho, was already in jail for participating in an illegal assembly.

According to the local press, the detainees are suspected of "collaborating with foreign forces", one of the four crimes defined in the National Security Law that Beijing imposed in the territory in 2020. The legal text contemplates sentences of up to life imprisonment for cases more serious.

The regulation is perceived as a powerful tool with which to criminalize all political opposition. Since its entry into force, it has served to arrest 175 people, of which 110 have already been prosecuted. Among them are some of the main figures of the pro-democracy movement such as the tycoon and activist Jimmy Lai, who was forced to close down the main opposition outlet, his Apple Daily, last year.

In 2021, the agents in charge of its application already warned that they were on the track of the 612 Fund, which received numerous donations and distributed some 30 million euros to the protesters arrested in 2019 to face legal expenses or economic problems derived from the riots. Like most organizations on the pro-democratic side - unions, professional associations, NGOs, etc. - the fund closed due to the "current political climate" in the city.

The latest wave of arrests comes just a few days after the election of the new local chief executive, John Lee. In a process that he attended without opposition with the support of Beijing, this former policeman and member of the Security office obtained the support of 99.4% of the members of the electoral committee, made up of some 1,500 people, mostly related to the central government. . Among his priorities are guaranteeing stability and security in the territory so that altercations like those of 2019 are not repeated, for which he plans to develop a new National Security law that contemplates new crimes such as treason or theft of State secrets.


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