The 90-year-old, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who is considered to be one of the highest-ranking Catholic priests in Asia, is currently on trial along with five others for their role in the operation of a fund for defending people arrested by authorities during anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
The “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” was set up to take care of the funds needed to defend the pro-democracy activists. However, it was disbanded after the Cardinal was arrested.
The cardinal was arrested earlier this year in accordance with the new security law implemented by the Beijing-backed government. According to media reports, he was accused of “colluding with foreign forces” – an allegation which has attracted a lot of criticism from senior clerics. However, he has not been officially charged with the offence.
The current case states that Cardinal Zen and the five other defendants did not register the fund as a society. If found guilty, they can face a fine of $1283 but no jail time will be given.
The Catholic Church has not officially commented on the arrest yet. German Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, however, has criticised the development as he said that they have “abandoned him”.
“This cardinal will be sacrificed on the altar of reason, to defend and implement the diplomatic agreement with Beijing,” Mueller told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.
In the past year, a number of pro-democracy activists have been put on trial in an attempt to quash dissent and a number of experts have hinted that this trial can also be part of the same strategy.