Hong Kong: Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, found guilty of funding pro-democracy protests

A Hong Kong court convicted Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, one of the most senior Roman Catholic bishops in Asia, guilty of failing to register a now-disbanded fund for pro-democracy demonstrators and fined him HK$4,000 ($512). 

Some Western governments had criticised the city’s national security officers for detaining Zen and four other people in May because it was perceived as part of a crackdown on dissent under a broad national security law enforced by China. 

“The fund had political objectives and thus it was not established solely for charitable purposes,” said Principal Magistrate Ada Yim in her ruling.

The fund’s secretary, Sze Ching-wee, received a smaller penalty than the other four trustees, which included lawyer Margaret Ng, academic Hui Po-Keung, politician Cyd Ho, and singer Denise Ho. 

Zen, a longtime supporter of democratic rights and liberties and an opponent of the Chinese Communist Party, emphasised that the fund’s primary goal was to assist those in need. 

“I’m just a Hong Kong citizen who strongly supports providing humanitarian assistance,” he told reporters after the verdict.

“Although I’m a religious figure, I hope this (case) won’t be associated with our freedom of religion. It’s not related.”

The six were accused of failing to properly establish the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund,” which assisted in covering the legal and medical costs of people detained during pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019. All entered not-guilty pleas.

(with inputs from agencies)