Catholic cardinal and others arrested under Hong Kong security law

HONG KONG (Associated Press) – A 90-year-old Catholic cardinal, a singer and at least two others have been arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces to endanger China’s national security, in a move widely condemned as another crime. A sign of Beijing’s erosion of rights to the city.

The arrests further widen the scope of an all-out crackdown on all forms of dissent in the city that appears increasingly retaliatory in pursuit of actions taken prior to the enactment of the National Security Act. The crackdown is permeating the city’s long-respected economic, religious and educational institutions, along with NGOs, many of which have closed their Hong Kong operations.

A police statement said that two men and two women, aged between 45 and 90, who were trustees of the Humanitarian Relief Fund 612, which provided legal aid to people who participated in the 2019 pro-democracy protests that were previously eliminated, were arrested. Security forces.

Another person, identified only as a 37-year-old man, was cited for failing to properly register the fund, which closed in 2021. The detainees have been ordered to surrender their travel documents and will be released on bail.

The police statement said that more arrests in the case are still pending, and did not specify the names of those arrested.

“Police investigations show that the above persons are all trustees of the ‘Humanitarian Support Fund 612,’ suspected of making requests from foreign or overseas agencies, imposing sanctions on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (and) endangering national security,” the statement said.

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Rights groups have identified Cardinal Joseph Zane, singer and actress Denise Ho, lawyer Margaret Ng, researcher Hui Bo Kyung and former legislator Syed Ho Sao Lan. It was not clear if Hoy had been formally arrested. Zain was seen leaving the police station shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under the sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on the city in 2020 in the wake of the demonstrations, including veteran MP Martin Lee and publisher Jimmy Lai. The city’s independent media was destroyed and the legislature was reorganized to include it with Beijing loyalists.

Zhen, the retired Archbishop of Hong Kong, is a fierce critic of China and has been scathing in his condemnation from the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with Beijing over bishops’ nominations, which he said was a sale to crypto-Christians in China.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Holy See “has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zin and is following the development of the situation with great interest.”

She, too, was outspoken in her defense of civil and political rights. Her manager, Gilly Cheng, confirmed Ho’s arrest, but said she had no further information.

The UK-based human rights organization Hong Kong Watch said Hui was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport while trying to leave the city.

“Today’s arrests indicate beyond any doubt that Beijing intends to intensify its crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” said the group’s chief executive, Benedict Rogers.

“We urge the international community to shine a light on this brutal campaign and call for the immediate release of these activists,” Rogers said.

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The White House also called on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting Hong Kong defenders and immediately release Zain and others “who have been unjustly arrested and charged,” Deputy Press Secretary Karen-Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.

Many prominent activists in Hong Kong fled to Taiwan, Britain or elsewhere, while thousands of other Hong Kong residents chose to leave the city, raising concerns about the economic future of the Asian financial hub of 7.4 million people.

The arrests follow the selection of Hong Kong’s new leader on Sunday. John Lee, the hard-line former security chief who ran unopposed in an operation controlled by Beijing and subject to US sanctions for his role in the 2019 campaign and its aftermath.

The European Union and the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven industrialized nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – condemned the elections as fundamentally undemocratic and a betrayal of the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong was supposed to keep its political, legal and economic system for 50 years. After the end of British colonial rule.

Maya Wang, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in China, said Zain’s arrest for his peaceful activities “must be another shocking dip for Hong Kong, demonstrating the city’s human rights decline in the past two years.”

Zen’s arrest represents “the darkest day yet in the Chinese Communist Party’s growing destruction of Hong Kong’s vitality and is likely to prompt the Vatican to reconsider its many-year diplomatic engagement with Beijing over the ordination of bishops”. Lionel Jensen, associate professor of East Asian languages ​​and cultures at the University of Notre Dame, who helped welcome Zain to the American School in 2019.

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US politicians also denounced the arrests, with Senator Ben Sassi of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that these arrests show that the ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping “are afraid of truth-tellers and describe them as threats to national security.”

Xi is “absolutely terrified of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal. Xi is a pathetic coward,” said Sass in a statement.

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