Hockey Costs

Hong Kong Catholic cardinal denies claims over relief fund

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s former Catholic leader, Cardinal Joseph Zen, and five others have denied accusations that he allegedly failed to register a relief fund aimed at financially helping protesters who had to do facing legal costs during the 2019 anti-government protests.

The six, which also include singer Denise Ho and former opposition MPs Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho, were first arrested two weeks ago on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces, but have not been charged.

They appeared in West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Zen and the other five were trustees of the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which was established in 2019 to help protesters who needed financial assistance with legal or medical bills.

They were charged with failing to register the fund as an organization with the police – an offense punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 Hong Kong dollars ($1,275).

The trial will begin on September 19 and will take place over five days.

Cardinal Zen’s arrest has drawn international condemnation, with the Vatican saying it is monitoring developments.

The charges against the six come as Hong Kong has launched a crackdown on political dissent in recent years.

Police opened an investigation into the fund on national security grounds in September 2021. A month later, the fund announced it would cease to operate, citing the city’s deteriorating political environment.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under a sweeping national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020 following the protests, including veteran lawmaker Martin Lee and publisher Jimmy Lai. The law prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, and has since been used to arrest more than 150 people in the city.

Pro-democracy news outlets such as Apple Daily and Stand News have been forced to close following national security investigations. Electoral laws were also changed to ensure that only “patriots” are allowed to govern the city, effectively preventing pro-democracy supporters from taking office.