A Hong Kong pop star, academic and pro-democracy cardinal were arrested under national security law on Wednesday (May 11), police and court sources said. These very prominent personalities have in common to have participated in the management of a fund – now dissolved – intended to finance the defense of activists arrested during the major pro-democracy demonstrations which shook the former British colony in 2019.
Among them are academic Hui Po-keung, singer Denise Ho, an LGBTQ rights activist, and retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, one of the top Catholic clerics in the financial metropolis.
The latter two were finally released on bail, a few hours after their arrest, by the pro-Beijing authorities of the territory, announced a local media. Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen appears waving to reporters in a video posted to Twitter as he leaves a police station in the Wan Chai district.
Shortly before, the White House had called for the immediate release of these personalities, in particular Cardinal Joseph Zen. In a statement released Wednesday evening, the Vatican said it “learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following developments with extreme attention.”
Former bishop of Hong Kong, where 400,000 Catholics live, Cardinal Zen is known for not mincing his words and for his tireless defense of political freedoms and democratic reforms.
The prelate has always spoken out against any agreement between the Catholic Church and Beijing on the appointment of Chinese bishops, believing that it would be a betrayal of the persecuted members of the Church, unofficial in China. The Vatican and China have not had diplomatic relations since 1951, but a historic “provisional” agreement was signed in September 2018 with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. “For decades the [Chinese] government made life difficult for them, but they remained loyal to Rome and the Pope. And now they’re being asked to surrender? “, he lamented in an interview with Agence France-Presse in 2018.
Academics particularly targeted
Hui Po-keung was preparing for his part to join Europe for a university post before being arrested on Tuesday, the two sources also reported, asking to remain anonymous. Mr. Hui was arrested for “colluding with foreign forces”, according to one of these sources, which is punishable by the national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong in 2020, in response to the huge protests the previous year. .
This law crushed all dissent in this Asian business center where speech was once free. Mr. Hui was one of six trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a fund that helped arrested protesters pay their legal and medical bills.
Other trustees included lawyer Margaret Ng as well as pro-democracy activist now behind bars Cyd Ho. The fund was dismantled last year after national security police demanded access to information about its donors and recipients.
Shortly before the fund was closed, Lingnan University in Hong Kong, where Mr. Hui taught for more than 20 years, confirmed the end of his teaching contract, refusing, for reasons of confidentiality, to give the reasons. Academics who have played prominent roles in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement have often lost their university positions and struggle to find work.