Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong is set to stand trial with five others in September over their alleged failure to register a protester relief fund as a society.
The cardinal served as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters in the special administrative region of Hong Kong to pay their legal fees.
A report on the Hong Kong Free Press said a five-day trial – scheduled between September 19 and 23 – has already been set following a pre-trial review hearing at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday, August 9.
Among those accused with Cardinal Zen are other former trustees of the Relief Fund — barrister Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, ex-legislator Cyd Ho and activist Sze Ching-wee. They all pleaded not guilty to the allegations.
The five trustees of the defunct fund were arrested under the Beijing-imposed national security law in May for allegedly colluding with foreign forces.
The media report said a pre-trial review questionnaire filled out by the defense suggested that the court would hear legal disputes concerning the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.
The ordinance provides for the incorporation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provisions as applied to Hong Kong into local laws.
In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”
The defense has yet to inform the prosecution on their points of argument, said the news report, quoting Anthony Chau, acting deputy director of Public Prosecutions (Special Duties).
In May, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ conferences, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, expressed “profound concern about the situation for human rights and threats to religious freedom in Hong Kong” in light of the charges against Cardinal Zen and his arrest.