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Cardinal Zen Arrested for “Colluding with Foreign Forces”


05/11/2022 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 90, retired archbishop of Hong Kong, and three democracy activists were arrested on foreign collusion charges Wednesday by Hong Kong’s national security police.

Cardinal Zen was taken into custody at the Chai Wan police station. A police sergeant told Reuters. The officer said Cardinal Zen was questioned for his involvement in a now-disbanded humanitarian fund for protesters involved in pro-democracy activities. He was released on bail after being interrogated.

Others arrested included senior barrister Margaret Ng, activist and singer Denise Ho, former lawmaker Cyd Ho (already imprisoned for illegal gathering), and former academic Hui Po-keung. They and Cardinal Zen had to surrender their travel documents before being released on bail.

The four were trustees of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund,” which helped cover legal and medical costs for protesters who were arrested during the pro-democracy movement in 2019. The government, however, said the fund supported violence.

Their arrests come three days after a rubber-stamp election to pick Hong Kong’s sixth chief executive. Former police officer and security chief John Lee was the only candidate. He vowed to strengthen national security and facilitate greater integration of the city into communist China.

A Christian cleric from Hong Kong who asked to remain anonymous told ICC,Cardinal Zen is the first Catholic Cardinal arrested on Chinese soil in the last few decades. He reminds us of the heroic Shanghai Cardinal Kung who was arrested in 1955. We are very sorry that this happened, and we pray that God will give him grace and strength to continue his battle for religious freedom and democracy.” 

Cardinal Zen is known for being a staunch advocate of religious freedom and democracy. A native of Shanghai, he often calls for democracy and criticizes China for its oppression of Chinese people — especially those from the underground Catholic community.

He criticized the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement that gave Chinese authorities greater influence on bishop appointments. And his stance against the Chinese Communist Party and support for pro-democracy activists have made him an easy target. He was called a “false prophet” and received threats last June as he prepared to hold Mass in remembrance of the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre.

“The erosion of freedom in all aspects in Hong Kong is very concerning as increasing numbers of freedom fighters are arrested and incarcerated for fabricated charges,” said Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia. “If a 90-year-old revered cardinal could not even be spared, it indicates the legal system will continue to be abused by the HK SAR government to nab anyone in Hong Kong they find to be a threat to the city. The Vatican and the world need to speak up and stand with Cardinal Zen.” 

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Since 1995, ICC has served the global persecuted church through a three-pronged approach of advocacy, awareness, and assistance. ICC exists to bandage the wounds of persecuted Christians and to build the church in the toughest parts of the world.