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Hong Kong court convicts Cardinal Zen, 5 others over fund to help arrested protestors

HONG KONG (AP) – A 90-year-old Roman Catholic cardinal and 5 others in Hong Kong have been fined after being discovered responsible on Friday of registering a now-defunct fund geared toward serving to folks help who have been arrested within the widespread protests three years in the past.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, a retired bishop and a vocal supporter of town’s democracy, got here to court in a black outfit and used a strolling stick. He was first arrested in May on suspicion of colluding with international forces underneath a nationwide safety legislation imposed by Beijing. His arrest shocked the Catholic group, though the Vatican mentioned it was carefully monitoring the scenario.

While Zen and different activists within the trial haven’t but been charged with nationwide safety fees, they’ve been accused of failing to correctly register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which as of 2019 helped pay medical and authorized charges for arrested protesters. It ceased operations in October 2021.

Alongside singer Denise Ho, Zen, scholar Hui Po Keung, former pro-democracy lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho have been trustees of the fund. They have been every fined HK$4,000 (US$512). A sixth defendant, Sze Ching-wee, was the secretary of the fund and was fined HK$2,500 ($320).

The Associations Ordinance requires native organizations to register inside one month of their incorporation or to apply for an exemption. Those who failed to accomplish that face a advantageous of up to HK$10,000 ($1,273) excluding jail time on first conviction.

In delivering the decision, Chief Justice Ada Yim dominated that the fund is taken into account a registered group as a result of it’s not solely for charitable functions.

The ruling is important because it marks the primary time native residents have had to face fees of failing to register underneath the regulation, Ng informed reporters after the listening to.

“The effect on other people, on the many, many citizens who are united to do one thing or another and what will happen to them, is very important,” mentioned the veteran lawyer. “Freedom of association in Hong Kong under the Societies Ordinance is also extremely important.”

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

The 2019 protests have been sparked by a now-abolished legislation that will have allowed legal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics feared the suspects would disappear into China’s opaque and infrequently abusive authorized system. The opposition changed into months of violent unrest within the metropolis.

The National Security Law has crippled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion because it was handed in 2020, with many activists arrested or jailed within the semi-autonomous Chinese metropolis. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The legislation’s affect has additionally broken confidence in the way forward for the worldwide monetary hub, as a rising variety of younger professionals reply to shrinking freedoms by emigrating overseas.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see extra, go to https://www.npr.org.

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