Hong Kong Police Arrest Former Bishop in Nationwide Safety Case

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police arrested three distinguished activists on Wednesday, together with a retired bishop and a pop star who had been leaders of a authorized assist group now beneath investigation for suspected violations of town’s strict nationwide safety legislation, a lawyer for the group mentioned.

The arrests are the most recent in a sweeping crackdown that adopted widespread antigovernment protests in 2019 and the imposition of the safety legislation on the territory a 12 months later. Greater than 170 individuals have been arrested beneath the legislation because it was carried out, and dozens are in custody awaiting trial.

The police arrested Cardinal Joseph Zen, a 90-year-old former bishop; Denise Ho, a distinguished Cantopop singer and L.G.B.T.Q. rights activist; and Margaret Ng, a lawyer and former lawmaker. They had been all trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, a corporation based in 2019 to offer grants to individuals who had been arrested for taking part in demonstrations.

The fund, which was closed final 12 months, is beneath investigation for colluding with international forces, a criminal offense beneath the nationwide safety legislation.

All 5 of the fund’s trustees have now been arrested or are already in jail. Hui Po-keung, a scholar who was additionally a trustee of the fund, was arrested on Tuesday. Cyd Ho, a former lawmaker who was additionally a member of the fund’s five-person board, is serving a jail time period for unauthorized meeting.

The 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which takes its title from an important date within the mass protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019, mentioned it took in additional than $30 million in donations earlier than it closed. Of that, it says $27 million was distributed to arrested protesters for authorized charges, bail cash, medical bills, counseling and emergency monetary help.

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The protests started over a proposal that might have allowed extraditions to mainland China, and grew to incorporate requires larger democratic freedoms and investigations into the usage of pressure by the police. Greater than 10,000 individuals had been arrested. The fund mentioned that of greater than 2,500 individuals charged with protest offenses, it had assisted 2,221.

Final 12 months, the police introduced they had been investigating the fund for attainable safety legislation violations. It shut down after a associate group closed, leaving it with out entry to funds.

The fund’s management included a few of Hong Kong’s most well-known activists.

Cardinal Zen is a former bishop of Hong Kong who has lengthy been vital of the Chinese language authorities for its restrictions on faith and free expression and the rising clampdown in Hong Kong. He recurrently joined marches and nonetheless usually attends the trials of individuals going through protest fees.

Human rights advocates condemned his arrest on Wednesday.

“Arresting a 90-year-old cardinal for his peaceable actions must be a stunning new low for Hong Kong, illustrating town’s free fall in human rights up to now two years,” Maya Wang, senior researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, mentioned in a press release.

The Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, mentioned: “The Holy See has realized with concern the information of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the event of the scenario with excessive consideration.” Cardinal Zen was launched hours in a while bail, his lawyer mentioned.

Ms. Ng, the previous lawmaker, had beforehand been convicted over organizing a peaceable demonstration in 2019. She and Ms. Ho had been arrested final 12 months together with different executives of the now-defunct pro-democracy information web site, Stand Information, that was accused of publishing seditious supplies.

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting from Rome.

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