Hong Kong court convicts 90-year-old cleric over protest funding

The 90-year-old Roman Catholic cardinal and five others yesterday failed to register a now-defunct fund aimed at helping those arrested in widespread protests three years ago. After being found guilty of the crime, he was fined by a Hong Kong court.

Cardinal Joseph Zeng, a retired bishop and advocate for democracy in Hong Kong, arrived at the court in black and used a cane.

He was arrested in May on suspicion of colluding with foreign powers under Beijing-imposed national security laws. He said that

Photo: EPA-EFE

Zen the and other democracy advocates, who have not yet been charged with national security-related crimes, have donated the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund to help pay medical and legal fees for arrested protesters since 2019. I was prosecuted for not registering properly. in October last year.

Zen served as trustee of the fund alongside singer Denise Ho, scholar Hui Po-keung, and former pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho. .

They were each fined HK$4,000 (US$512).

Photo: Reuters

The sixth defendant, Sze Ching-wee, a secretary to the Foundation, was fined HK$2,500.

Hong Kong’s social ordinance requires local organizations to apply for registration or exemption within one month of their establishment. Those who fail to do so face a fine of up to HK$10,000 without imprisonment on first conviction.

The Chief Justice of the Peace, Ada Yim, who handed down the verdict, ruled that the foundation is not purely charitable and therefore considered an organization that must be registered.

The ruling is significant because it is the first time residents have been prosecuted under the ordinance for failing to register, Ng told reporters after the hearing.

“Other people involved together to do something, the impact on so many citizens and what happens to them is very important,” said Ng, a veteran lawyer. I’m here. “The freedom of association in Hong Kong under the social ordinance is also very important.”

Zeng said his case should not be tied to religious freedom in the territory.

“I have never seen the erosion of religious freedom in Hong Kong,” he said.

The 2019 protests were sparked by the withdrawal of a bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. Critics feared such suspects would disappear into China’s opaque and often abusive legal system. rice field.

Since its enactment in 2020, the National Security Law has crippled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, with many pro-democracy supporters arrested or imprisoned.

The impact of the law has also undermined confidence in the territory’s future as more and more people respond to diminished freedoms through migration.

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