Hong Kong reopens Cardinal Zen’s prosecution days after Vatican-China accord renewal

Hong Kong reopens Cardinal Zen’s prosecution days after Vatican-China accord renewal

Wednesday marked the resumption of Cardinal Joseph Zen’s trial in Hong Kong, days after the Vatican announced the renewal of its deal with Beijing.

Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang took the stand on October 26 in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, where Zen and five other pro-democracy activists were accused with failing to submit an application for local society registration for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund between 2019 and 2021.

According to the South China Morning Post, the prosecution contended that the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund needed to be registered with the police due to its “huge” scale and “systematic” style of operation.

The fund assisted pro-democracy demonstrators with their legal bills until its dissolution in October 2021. Chau maintained that the political nature of the fund disqualified it from the exemption under Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance for organizations established “for religious, philanthropic, social, or recreational purposes.”

On October 31, the defense will present its arguments before Chief Magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee.

According to Asia News, the defense argued that the Societies Ordinance was unconstitutional, that its definition of “society” was vague, and that its restrictions went beyond what was necessary to defend national security.

Within one month of its formation, the Societies Ordinance required any club, corporation, partnership, or organization of persons to register with the police commissioner or request an exemption.

For breaking the ordinance, Zen and the other democracy activists might face a $1,200 (HK$10,000) punishment.

The cardinal and other democratic advocates were arrested in May under Hong Kong’s stringent national security law, but he now faces a lesser penalty. He has been out on bond since the beginning of May.

Each defendant has entered a not-guilty plea. Lawyer Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies researcher Hui Po-keung, activist Sze Ching-wee, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho, who is already imprisoned on a separate case, are accused of practicing Zen.

The most recent court appearance of the retired 90-year-old bishop of Hong Kong occurred four days after the Vatican announced its intention to renew for another two years its provisional arrangement with the Chinese government regarding the appointment of bishops. Since its signing in 2018, Zen has been one of the most vociferous critics of the Vatican’s pact with China.

»Hong Kong reopens Cardinal Zen’s prosecution days after Vatican-China accord renewal«

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