90-Year-Old Cardinal Emeritus Zen's Trial is Adjourned before Defense can Call on Witnesses in Hong Kong

 Cardinal Emeritus Joseph Zen Ze-kiun's trial in Hong Kong was adjourned before the defense could call witnesses. On September 26th the trial began at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts in Hong Kong. The 90-year-old cardinal and five others were trial for allegedly failing to register a now-closed fund to help provide legal aid to people arrested in the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

CNNS reports that, after only two days, the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court adjourned the trial of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 90, and four co-defendants, until October 26th.
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 The trial began Sept. 26 and had been scheduled for five days, but the magistrate adjourned the trial when defense lawyers attempted to cross-examine police witnesses called by the prosecution. 
 The cardinal, retired bishop of Hong Kong, was detained on May 11th under the China-imposed national security law. He and his co-defendants were then charged with failing to properly register their 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which offered financial, legal and psychological help to people arrested during the 2019 protest movement. They have pleaded not guilty. The prosecution said the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund had raised US$34.4 million and that some of the money was used for “political activities and noncharity events,” including funding protest groups. The defense countered that defendants had a right to form an association under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that critics claim has been subverted in recent years by authorities in Beijing. If found guilty, the defendants could each incur a fine of about $1,300. Cardinal Zen’s co-defendants are, like him, well known Hong Kong democracy activists: barrister Margaret Ng, academic Hui Po-keung, former lawmaker Cyd Ho — already in jail — and pop singer Denise Ho. The prosecution said the defendants should have registered the fund within one month of starting its operation. 
When the defense tried to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, defense questions were overruled as irrelevant. The trial was adjourned before the defense could call witnesses or make its case. The trial and its adjournment come as the Chinese central government prepares to renew its two-year deal with the Vatican, for the second time, concerning the appointment of bishops. Vatican officials left Beijing Sept. 2, and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, has said a deal would be completed by the end of the year, but previous deals have been concluded in September and October. Although no details of the agreement have been published, Cardinal Zen has been a relentless critic of the deal since before it first was signed in 2018.
The adjournment also places the trial after the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which selects officials to rule the country for the next five years; that begins Oct. 16. Officials in Beijing are moving to minimize any controversy ahead of the event. The more serious charges that Cardinal Zen and his co-defendants face under the national security law are for “colluding with foreign forces.” They have yet to be indicted on that charge but, if they are, they can be extradited to mainland China for trial. Punishment ranges from three years to life imprisonment. 
 Cardinal Fernando Filoni, one of the Vatican top’s China experts, recently came out in support of his Hong Kong colleague in the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire, saying he “is a man of God; at times intemperate, but submissive to the love of Christ.” “He is an authentic Chinese. No one among those I have known, can, I say, be truly as loyal as he is,” Cardinal Filoni wrote.
Edited from CNS