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Cardinal Zen arrested in Hong Kong for aiding pro-democracy movement

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AFP

Le cardinal Zen, en 2018.

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 05/11/22 - updated on 05/11/22

The outspoken opponent of the Communist regime in Beijing was arrested for his support of an NGO that supports democracy movements in Hong Kong.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and an outspoken opponent of the Beijing regime, was arrested in Hong Kong on May 11, 2022, Bishop Joseph Ha, auxiliary bishop of the same diocese, confirmed to I.MEDIA. He was released on bail hours after his arrest.

According to the HK01 website, the 90-year-old cardinal was arrested as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, an NGO that assists Hong Kongers who support the democratic opposition movement to the Chinese Communist Party. The organization disbanded in September of 2021 when investigations were launched into its activities. The NGO provided financial and legal help to pro-democracy activists arrested, attacked or threatened with violence. Three administrators of the organization were also arrested.

According to Hong Kong journalist Kris Cheng, Cardinal Joseph Zen, and the three other members of the NGO were released on bail a few hours after they were arrested. The Chinese press announced that a fifth member, Cyd Ho, is expected to be arrested tomorrow, reports Kris Cheng.

The arrests come three days after the chief executive election that resulted in the victory of John Lee, a former police officer of Catholic faith and the only candidate approved by Beijing. 

Bishop Ha said that the diocese would officially speak out on the matter at a press conference on the morning of May 12. Contacted by I.MEDIA, the Holy See Press Office has not yet reacted.

A great opponent of Beijing

Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, known as Joseph Zen, was born in Shanghai in 1932. He joined the Salesians at the age of 12 and went to Hong Kong where he was ordained a priest in 1961. Provincial Superior of the Salesians between 1978 and 1983, he had the opportunity to visit mainland China on many occasions. He became Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong in 1996 and then Bishop in 2002, remaining so until 2009.

In 2006, Benedict XVI named him a cardinal, a new responsibility that gave him the opportunity to speak out about his struggle against the Chinese regime and in favor of religious freedom. As a sign of his closeness to the German pope, the latter asked him to write the meditations for the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at the Coliseum in 2008.

This is the first time Cardinal Zen has been arrested. He has repeatedly criticized the Holy See’s policies of openness towards China since the beginning of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The Hong Kong cardinal has not hesitated to openly criticize the actions of the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.  

In particular, he has been one of the most prominent critics of the pastoral agreement on the appointment of Catholic bishops signed in 2018 by the two states, seeing it as a compromise and betrayal of the Chinese “underground” Church. 

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