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Cardinal Joseph Zen and four others arrested in Honk Kong – Human rights in ‘free-fall’


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Hong Kong police arrested retired Bishop and respected Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen on Wednesday, under Hong Kong’s National Security Law.

Cardinal Zen, 90, was arrested along with four others – Senior barrister Margaret Ng, 74, former legislator Cyd Ho, 67, singer-activist Denise Ho, 45, and academic Hui Po-Keung, 62.

The five pro-democracy advocates were arrested on 11 May and 12 May 2022 under article 29 of Hong Kong’s National Security Law on charges of alleged ‘conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.’

The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Cardinal Zen has long been outspoken about human rights, religious liberty, and political freedom and is a strong pro-democracy influence in Hong Kong.

All five arrested, were trustees of the now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund which provided legal, medical, and psychological assistance for protestors arrested in the 2019 Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.

The trustees were forced to abandon the fund in 2021 following investigations by Hong Kong police into the fund’s alleged violations of the National Security Law, and after demands by police to reveal the fund’s donors.

In a press release on May 12, the Hong Kong police said they had also applied to prosecute the five in court; along with another unnamed 37-year-old man; for failing to register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund under the Societies Ordinance – an offence that could incur a fine.

The Hong Kong government press release confirmed that none have been charged, saying,

“Two arrested men and two arrested women have been released on bail and are required to report back to Police in early August. A 67-year-old arrested woman [Cyd Ho] who is serving a sentence will remain in custody.”

All five have been requested to surrender their travel documents to the police and are barred from leaving Hong Kong.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a statement on Friday labelling Hong Kong’s Security Law; imposed on June 30, 2020; as ‘draconian’ and said the charge of ‘collusion’ was ‘overbroad and vague’.

Senior HRW researcher Maya Wang said that these arrests highlight the Hong Kong government’s ‘broadening crackdown on human rights,’ with authorities waging war on the city by ‘erasing basic civil and political rights long protected in Hong Kong.’

Denise Ho and Margaret Ng were previously arrested in 2021 for being on the board of an independent media outlet Stand News, withCyd Ho previously arrested on four counts of ‘unlawful assembly’ for attending peaceful protests.

Wang said, “Hong Kong authorities haven’t just put Cardinal Zen, Margaret Ng, and others under arrest – they have put Hong Kong’s fundamental freedoms under arrest.

“Arresting a 90-year-old cardinal for his peaceful activities has to be a shocking new low for Hong Kong’s police, the latest example of the city’s human rights freefall in the past two years.”

Wang later tweeted, “Hong Kong was long a regional leader in openness and respect for the rule of law, but now it jostles for top spots in Asia for repression and political prisoners,” adding “Hong Kong people have been unequivocal in their demand for human rights, and governments around the globe should be unequivocal in their response to that call.”

Human Rights Watch said,

“The authorities have been arresting prominent pro-democracy leaders, shutting down independent media, labor unions, and civil society groups, and have established a hotline for informers to report suspected violations. Hong Kong and Beijing officials have decapitated the once-thriving pro-democracy movements and created a climate of fear among the general public.”



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