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Hong Kong courtroom convicts Cardinal Zen, 5 others over fund

HONG KONG (AP) — A 90-year-old Roman Catholic cardinal and 5 others in Hong Kong had been fined after being discovered responsible Friday of failing to register a now-defunct fund that aimed to assist individuals arrested within the widespread protests three years in the past.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a retired bishop and a vocal democracy advocate of town, arrived at courtroom in a black outfit and used a strolling stick. He was first arrested in May on suspicion of colluding with international forces underneath a Beijing-imposed Nationwide Safety Legislation. His arrest despatched shockwaves by the Catholic group, though the Vatican solely acknowledged it was monitoring the event of the state of affairs carefully.

Whereas Zen and different activists on the trial haven’t but been charged with nationwide security-related expenses, they had been charged with failing to properly register the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which helped pay medical and authorized charges for arrested protesters starting in 2019. It ceased operations in October 2021.

Zen, alongside singer Denise Ho, scholar Hui Po Keung, former pro-democracy lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho, had been trustees of the fund. They had been every fined 4,000 Hong Kong {dollars} ($512). A sixth defendant, Sze Ching-wee, was the fund’s secretary and was fined HK$2500 ($320).

The Societies Ordinance requires native organizations to register or apply for an exemption inside a month of their institution. Those that failed to take action face a high quality of as much as HK$10,000 ($1,273), with no jail time, upon first conviction.

Handing down the decision, Principal Justice of the Peace Ada Yim dominated that the fund is taken into account a corporation that’s obliged to register because it was not purely for charity functions.

The judgement holds significance as the primary time that residents needed to face a cost underneath the ordinance for failing to register, Ng informed reporters after the listening to.

“The impact to different individuals, to the various, many voters who’re related collectively to do one factor or one other, and what is going to occur to them, is essential,” the veteran lawyer mentioned. “It’s also extraordinarily vital in regards to the freedom of affiliation in Hong Kong underneath Societies Ordinance.”

However Zen mentioned his case shouldn’t be linked with town’s spiritual freedoms. “I haven’t seen any erosion of non secular freedoms in Hong Kong,” he mentioned.

The 2019 protests had been sparked by a since-withdrawn invoice that may have allowed felony suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics nervous the suspects would disappear into China’s opaque and regularly abusive authorized system. Opposition morphed into months of violent unrest within the metropolis.

The Nationwide Safety Legislation has crippled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion since its enactment in 2020, with many activists being arrested or jailed within the semi-autonomous Chinese language metropolis. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China’s rule in 1997.

The influence of the regulation has additionally broken religion in the way forward for the worldwide monetary hub, with a rising variety of younger professionals responding to the shrinking freedoms by emigrating overseas.

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