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Report: Former Hong Kong bishop Cardinal Zen arrested

CNA Staff By CNA Staff

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 88, retired bishop of Hong Kong, holds a biretta and wears a cappa magna ("great cape") as he processes prior to celebrating a Pontifical High Mass Feb. 15, 2020, at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Hong Kong, China, May 11, 2022 / 06:32 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen has been arrested by the authorities in Hong Kong, according to local media reports.

The 90-year-old former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong was reportedly detained on May 11 in his role as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

The Standard newspaper reported that the trustees were arrested on Wednesday evening local time, according to sources.

The fund, which was founded in 2019, disbanded last year after the national security police ordered it to share operational details, the newspaper said.

Zen, who stood down as Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop in 2009, is an outspoken supporter of the pro-democracy movement.

In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”

Reuters reported that Zen and four others — Canadian-Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, academic Hui Po Keung, and former opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho — were arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces.”

Before the law’s implementation, many Catholics, including Zen, warned that it could be used to silence the Church in Hong Kong.

Zen’s arrest will pose a dilemma for the Vatican, which has shied away from public criticism of the crackdown in Hong Kong.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said in June 2021 that he was not convinced that speaking out on the situation in Hong Kong would make a difference.

Benedict Rogers, a British human rights activist, deplored the arrests.

Rogers, the founder of the NGO Hong Kong Watch and a convert to Catholicism, said: “We condemn the arrests of these activists whose supposed ‘crime’ was funding legal aid for pro-democracy protestors back in 2019.”

“Today’s arrests signal beyond a doubt that Beijing intends to intensify its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.”

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

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief, a cross-party group of U.K. parliamentarians, also condemned Zen’s arrest.

“This is yet another example of China’s increasing restrictions of fundamental human rights,” it said in a Twitter post.

David Alton, an independent member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the U.K. parliament, described the cardinal’s arrest as “an act of outrageous intimidation.”

Earlier this week, former security chief John Lee was named as Hong Kong’s next chief executive, succeeding Carrie Lam, who held the post since 2017. Both Lee and Lam are baptized Catholics.

Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan, Hong Kong’s new Catholic leader, took charge of his diocese in December 2021.

In his first interview, published in February this year, he underlined the importance of protecting human dignity.

“I find it unacceptable for human dignity to be ignored, trampled upon, or eliminated entirely. God gave us this dignity when he created us in his image and likeness. And therefore it is universal because it comes from the love of God,” Chow said.

In March, Pope Francis recorded a brief video message for Catholics in Hong Kong.

“I wish you to be good citizens and that you are courageous in the face of the challenges of the time,” he said.

In Cardinal Zen’s last blog post before his arrest, he quoted Romans 8:34-39: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution … No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.”

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  1. Do I recall correctly that Pope Francis did not receive Cardinal Zen last year when the Cardinal attempted to have a meeting with him?
    Does it not say everything?
    There is no further need for a “statement” from the Bergoglian pontificate. We all got the message. Then of course there was the recent slap in the face rendered to Cardinal Burke who sought admission to the offices of the Congregation for the Saints. Despite having recovered from Covid he was not vaxed and that is an offense against the eleventh commandment.
    Do we live during the Wuhan pontificate? Cardinals of the greatest faith and laity alike regarded only as useful idiots except when they are useless.

  2. Here we have yet *another* reason to thank Catholics who vote for Democrats.

    China would never have been able to do this if we had a strong, principled president.

    Cardinal Zen is a human rights hero. Pray for him.

  3. This will be an excellent opportunity for Pope Francis to show his goodwill by giving deference to the Chinese Communist Party as they “recommend” candidates to succeed Cdl. Zen.

    Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us and for all under communist persecution in China and Hong Kong!

  4. Sadly, Parolin and Francis have staked their credibility on this sellout “Provisional Agreement”, and throwing a highly respected Prince of the Church under the bus to avoid offending the Winnie the Pooh regime would be more expedient for them than to admit the “Provisional Agreement” is a complete failure that should be abrogated.

    Dialogue for it’s own sake (rather than as a means to an end) and a false Ecumenism seems to be more important to both the Pope and Secretary of State than actually helping their own flock who are suffering, as we have seen with the pointless talks with Russian Patriarch Kirill, who is nothing more than a waterboy for the Russian tyrant Putin, instead of aiding Ukrainian Catholics suffering under the jackboot of Russian aggression.

  5. Pope Francis, Cardinal Parolin and Bishop Sorondo are trading high fives. After all, they think the CCP is the right body to direct the Holy Catholic Church, and Sorondo has said that China’s government offers an outstanding example of social justice, opining, “Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.”

  6. I am proud of Cardinal Zen, because he is Christ-like.

    He was utterly ignored by the Pontiff Francis whose spokesman Excellency Sorondo has publicly declared on behalf of Pontiff Francis their mutual objective to make over the world in the image of their preferred Communist State in China, which as they declared is “the highest example” of Catholic social teaching in action.

    That’s our horrific “church-2013,” publicly praising what is utterly evil, and publicly abandoning good shepherds, and handing over their flocks to the wolves.

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