Arrested last May, then released on bail, Cardinal Joseph Zen, appeared before the judge with five other defendants on the accusation of a “failure to register funds.” Found guilty, he was sentenced on November 25, 2022 to a fine equivalent to 500 euros.
The Hong Kong judge ultimately imposed a simple fine for failing to properly register the now dissolved 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund in 2019, which was intended to support protesters arrested during the democracy protests.
If the amount of the fine remains low, the conviction has value as an example. The Hong Kong government, entirely subject to the Beijing regime, wanted, on the one hand, to show that no one would be spared, and, on the other hand, to put pressure on the Catholic Church and the Vatican, to tell them to settle down and accept the sinicization desired by Xi-Jinping.
The six defendants had pleaded “not guilty.” Cardinal Zen's lawyer said after the sentencing that imposing criminal penalties for failure to register a Humanitarian Aid Fund amounts to a violation of freedom of association.
It was following the major demonstrations of 2019 and 2020 that the cardinal created, with a few other personalities, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, to collect donations intended to cover the medical and legal costs of protesters arrested by the police and placed in prison.
This initiative provoked the fury of the regime. In May 2022, the cardinal and the four administrators of the fund were arrested for “collusion with foreigners” before being released on bail. This serious accusation, which falls under the very strict security law, could have led to prison sentences. But during the first session of the trial, this path was abandoned.
This condemnation sadly proves Cardinal Zen right. He had expressed his fear of seeing Hong Kong totally lose the autonomy promised by Beijing in 1984, when it was agreed the British colony would be returned to China.