A Roman Catholic cardinal was arrested Wednesday by Hong Kong authorities on suspicion that he endangered communist China’s national security by colluding with foreign forces.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90 – along with three others – was arrested by Hong Kong’s National Security Police, the Associated Press reported.
“Today’s arrests signal beyond a doubt that Beijing intends to intensify its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” said Benedict Rogers, the CEO of U.K. human rights group Hong Kong Watch. “We urge the international community to shine a light on this brutal crackdown and call for the immediate release of these activists,” he added.
Zen’s arrest was reportedly connected to his involvement with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, “which provided legal aid to people who took part in 2019 pro-democracy protests that were quashed by security forces, the group said,” according to the AP.
Since 2020, communist China has cracked down on pro-freedom activists in Hong Kong, arresting many under the ill-defined National Security Law imposed by Beijing.
Zen has criticized the Vatican for its 2018 agreement with the communist country for bishop nominations, the AP noted. The cardinal believes the agreement “was a sellout of underground Christians in China.”
For the Vatican’s part, it expressed concern with “the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.
The three others arrested in Hong Kong included singer and actress Denise Ho, lawyer Margaret Ng, and scholar Hui Po-kueng, who were all reportedly arrested for their roles with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
Just hours after Zen was arrested, the cardinal was reportedly released on bail from the Chai Wan Police Station.
— Chan Ho-him (@ThomasHHChan) May 11, 2022
The arrests come days after Hong Kong selected a pro-Beijing former security chief to be its next leader through a closed voting process. The Daily Wire reported that John Lee was selected after being the only candidate on the ballot. Lee’s selection is widely viewed as part of communist China’s continued attempts to maintain control over Hong Kong.
“Choosing [Lee] signals that the Chinese Communist Party is not confident about security in Hong Kong. It also lets us know that the central government continues to distrust the Hong Kong government and people,” John Burns wrote in a column for the Hong Kong Free Press.