The fate of the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong should be decided within a few weeks: this is what emerged from the preliminary hearing held on August 9, 2022, at the end of which President Ada Yim state he plans to have the High Prelate appear in court between September 19 and 23.
A court in West Kowloon has set Sept. 19-23 for the trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and five well-known members of the Democratic Front, accused of failing to properly register a humanitarian fund for which they were administrators. If convicted, the penalty is a small fine.
Cardinal Zen will not be alone in the dock: lawyer Margaret Ng, artist Denise Ho, jurist Cyd Ho, and professor Hui Po-Keung will also appear along with him.
On 11th May last, these figures attached to Hong Kong independence were arrested at the end of the day by the new political police, created to ensure compliance with the new draconian law on national security (LSN), imposed by Beijing in June 2020.
The questioning involved the crime of “collusion with foreign forces,” one of the four crimes defined by the LSN.
In question was the participation of the small group in the administration of the “Humanitarian Support Fund,” dissolved since October 2021, which had been created to financially support those arrested during the summer 2019 demonstrations, for both their legal and medical procedures.
The Fund bore the date of the first violent incident of the summer of 2019: June 12. Fearing lawsuits, its administrators had stopped accepting donations in September 2021, a month before the announcement of its closure.
Deputy prosecutor Anthony Chau said on August 9 that the trial scheduled for September should judge whether the 612 Fund complied with the regulations in force in the former British colony returned to the Middle Kingdom in 1997, thus leaving aside the accusation of collusion with foreign forces.
The pre-hearing also decided that the trial would be conducted in Chinese and not in English, refusing a request from the defense that certain legal arguments would be more easily presented in the language of Shakespeare.
Cardinal Zen's lawyer remains confident: According to Robert Pang, the stack of files provided by the prosecution does not contain relevant evidence that would prove an offense against the administration of the 612 Fund.
Without the national security threat charge, defendants could be fined up to $1,750.
However, it is difficult to imagine that the masters of Beijing will let five defendants, who are all obstacles to be eliminated, be cleared within the framework of the normalization in progress in Hong Kong.