Hong Kong’s former Catholic bishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, has been arrested for his support of a now-dissolved pro-democracy group, 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
Zen served as a trustee for the group, which supported participants in a series of pro-democracy protests by helping with the payment of legal fees. Hong Kong is a special administrative district of the People’s Republic of China and enjoys some autonomy from the mainland. A 2019 bill that would have granted more mainland influence in the area drew protests involving thousands of people, some of the largest in Hong Kong’s history.
The 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund closed in 2021.
Thought leaders and social media users are imploring Catholic leaders to react strongly against Zen’s arrest and are also urging people of faith to pray for the bishop. The Vatican has not issued a statement regarding the arrest yet.
CBN News reports:
Sam Goodman, director of policy and advocacy for Hong Kong Watch, told The Globe and Mail, “We hope the Vatican will not only condemn the arrest of Cardinal Zen and call for his release alongside the other activists but will reconsider its silence regarding the ongoing human rights violations in Hong Kong and China.”
Apart from speaking against the Chinese Communist Party, the former bishop has also reproached the Vatican for not employing strong enough measures against the Chinese government.
It is worth noting that, in addition to being critical of the Chinese Community Party, Zen has rebuked the Vatican for failing to take strong enough actions against Beijing.
In the fall of 2020, following a visit to Rome, the cardinal criticized the Vatican for not appointing a new bishop of Hong Kong, which has not had one since 2019, the National Catholic Register reported.
“The Vatican seems to be guessing the mind of Beijing — always seeking to anticipate what Beijing will do, always appeasing,” he told the outlet at the time. “It seems they are afraid to nominate Bishop Ha (Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing), as doing so may offend Beijing.”
Ha is currently serving as the auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, meaning his role is not official. Because the auxiliary bishop has supported pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, he is seen by some as antagonistic toward Beijing.
“Bishop Ha has never done anything — not like me — to cause trouble,” said Zen, noting the express purpose of his 2020 trip to Vatican City was to advocate for the installation of an official bishop in Hong Kong.
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