The 90-year-old prelate has been shortly detained together with an academic, a barrister, and a singer and LGBT activist with the pretext of his past activity in the now-defunct 612 Fund.
by Gladys Kwok
May 11 will be remembered as a crucial and terrible day in the history of the CCP’s attack of human rights and religious freedom in Hong Kong. The police arrested, then released on bail, four former trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. Established in 2019, the fund provided emergency relief, legal assistance, and psychological counseling to pro-democracy protesters mistreated by the police or arrested. It was compelled to disband under the new National Security Law in October 2021.
The crackdown on the former trustees of the 612 Fund started on the evening of May 10, when Hui Po-keung, a famous cultural studies scholar who was on his way to Europe, was arrested before boarding his flight. On May 11, three other trustees were arrested: Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, Denise Ho Wan-see, and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. The fifth trustee, former lawmaker Cyd Ho, was already in jail for other charges.
Margaret Ng is a veteran and well-known human rights attorney. Denise Ho Wan-see is a pop singer and prominent Hong Kong advocate of LGBT rights.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the 90-year-old Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, is the most famous Catholic cleric in Hong Kong. He has been a staunch supporter of the pro-democracy protests and a vocal critic of the Vatican-China agreement of 2018. His belligerent attitude towards the CCP created disagreements with the Vatican, yet many in Hong Kong expect and hope that the Holy See would intervene on his behalf.
“This is not about the 612 Fund, a Catholic priest who prefers to remain anonymous told Bitter Winter. The 612 Fund is defunct and does not represent a threat to the CCP. It is a message to the Hong Kong Catholics. They had always been different from Catholics in Mainland China, Rome had chosen their bishops, not the CCP. It seems Beijing now wants to make the Catholic Church in Hong Kong the same as the state-controlled one in Mainland China. We cannot accept this.”
The message is not for Catholics only. Through the other three former trustees who have been arrested, the CCP has sent the same signal to four groups of possible opponents: academics, attorneys, singers and actors, and LGBT activists. If even a 90-year-old cardinal can be arrested, everybody can go to jail.
Yes, it is not about the 612 Fund: it is about telling Hongkongers that in the regime of the newly elected John Lee Ka-chiu no dissent will be tolerated, and religious leaders, performers, lawyers, and academics are expected to behave—or else.