Cardinal Zen – Reuters
After a few days of waiting for the judge’s Covid infection, yesterday Cardinal Joseph Zen appeared in the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong along with five other defendants for the management of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund (already blocked in 2021) used to finance the medical and legal expenses of arrested democratic activists during the harsh protests of 2019.
The elderly cardinal, 90, bishop emeritus of the former British colony, arrived in the courtroom supporting himself with a walking stick to participate in the hearing spent to examine procedural issues and the request, accepted by the judges, to seize the 70 million Hong Kong dollars equivalent to 9.2 million euros at the current exchange rate still deposited in the NGO fund.
Despite the fact that the arrest on 11 May followed by the release was motivated by the alleged “collusion with foreign forces” under Article 29 of the National Security Law which effectively blocked any protest initiative and saw a ‘wave of judicial proceedings against individuals known for their critical attitude towards political power, the cardinal finds himself on trial for a much less serious crime.
He is in fact involved, along with activist and singer Denise Ho, lawyer Margaret Ng, academician Hui Po-Keung and activist Sze Ching-wee in a process that could also drag on for a long time. All called into question – as well as the co-founder of the Labor Party Cyd Ho, already in prison for illegal assembly – for alleged irregularities in the management of the fund. The accused have denied any wrongdoing, but if found guilty they could be called to pay a fine equivalent to 1,300 euros.
However, more than the size of the sentence in the event of a conviction, it is their notoriety that draws attention. Despite his age and his retirement from pastoral activity, Cardinal Zen himself still enjoys notoriety for his constant support for the democratic movement. For some time the Holy See has signaled concern for his legal affair, assuring him that it “is following the evolution of the situation very closely”.