Cardinal Zen Appears in Court with Foreign Diplomats Observing and a Trial Date is Set

Cardinal Joseph Zen, of Hong Kong, appeared in court and the charge of threatening national security was dropped. New charges of failing to register a charitable fund with preliminary hearing today, the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The diocese, in precaution, cancels traditional masses for the Tiananmen massacre. The trial against him and five pro-democracy activists will begin September 19th. 

AsiaNews reported that the West Kowloon Court today charged Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, and five well-known Democratic Front members of failing to properly register a humanitarian fund of which they were trustees. Police had arrested the city's bishop emeritus and the others charged with the far more serious charge of "collusion" with foreign forces, in violation of the draconian national security law imposed by Beijing in the summer of 2020.

Until it was shut down last October, Fund 612 assisted thousands of democracy activists involved in the 2019 protests. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty: their advocates questioned whether the charity was required to register under the Societies Ordinance.

Without an indictment for threats to national security, the defendants face a maximum fine of ,750. However, one of them, activist Cyd Ho, is already in jail for participating in an unauthorized demonstration, a charge that has targeted several Democratic figures, including Catholic tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Italian, German, French and Swedish diplomats were present at today's hearing. Many Western countries have long denounced the repressive actions carried out by the Hong Kong authorities, which in effect have erased the traditional freedoms guaranteed to the people since their return under Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Demonstrating the climate of fear experienced in the former British colony, the city's diocese announced today that traditional masses commemorating the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989, when thousands of Chinese students and citizens were massacred in Beijing for demanding freedom and democracy in the country, will not be celebrated this year. The halt to the celebrations is motivated by concerns that it may violate the National Security Law.

For the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan - established by Benedict XVI in 2007 as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China - tonight at 8 p.m. (local time) Card. Zen will celebrate a Mass organized by the Justice and Peace Commission, while another celebration at 6 p.m. will be presided over by Card. John Tong at the Holy Spirit Study Center. 

Edited from Asia