Chinese Communists Charge Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen

Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, faces charges from the Chinese-backed Hong Kong government over his role in a pro-democracy group that assisted activists after their movement was crushed by communist forces.

Zen is charged with failing to properly register the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which rendered legal and medical aid to protesters swept up by police.

The fund stood arm-in-arm with pro-democracy activists against the new national security law that permitted the extradition of alleged criminal offenders to the Chinese mainland.

Cardinal Zen and his five co-defendants were charged in May with violating Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance. The Catholic leader appeared in court this week and faced testimony from members of the region’s police.

Prosecutors told the court, according to local media outlets, that the relief fund brought in approximately $30 million and was motivated by politics.

Zen is to reappear in court on Oct. 26, and under current charges, faces the possibility of a fine. However, that is not the extent of his persecution by communist Chinese authorities.

The Catholic official is also being investigated under Hong Kong’s National Security Law for “collusion with foreign forces.” If he were charged and convicted, he would face a possible life sentence.

At the time of Zen’s arrest, the Vatican press office said it is “following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said at the time that he was “very saddened” by the arrest.

Cardinal Parolin emphasized that his statement was not a disavowal of the tenuous relationship between the church and communist officials.

Instead, he stated his hope that the situation will not further complicate “the already complex and not simple path of dialogue.” Pope Francis is working to extend the agreement between the Catholic Church and Chinese communists on how bishops are appointed in the country.

The relationship between the Vatican and China has been strained for many years, and there is a divide within the country between underground Catholics and the officially sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.