Cardinal Zen’s second day in court: Magistrate rules there is sufficient evidence

By Courtney Mares
Catholic News Agency

On Tuesday, Cardinal Joseph Zen’s second day in court in Hong Kong, five witnesses were cross-examined and the magistrate ruled that there was sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

The 90-year-old cardinal appeared on Sept. 27 for the second consecutive day in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. The prosecution called four police officers and one other witness to testify in the preliminary hearing.

Principal Magistrate Ada Yim ruled that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to make a prima facie case against the cardinal and five others for failing to properly register a fund to provide legal aid to
pro-democracy protesters, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

Zen’s next trial date is set for Oct. 26. He was arrested in May along with other democracy activists under Hong Kong’s strict national security law. Under the current less serious charge, he could face a fine of about $1,200 but no jail time.

In addition to Zen, who has been free on bail since early May, several others have been charged for failing to apply for local society registration for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund between 2019 and 2021.

Those accused with Zen are lawyer Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, activist Sze Ching-wee, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho.

All the defendants have pleaded not guilty. Cyd Ho is already jailed for a different charge. The fund helped pro-democracy protesters pay their legal fees until it dissolved itself in October 2021.

The legal representatives for the six defendants said that they will not testify in court or call any witnesses, but they will submit legal arguments on the interpretation of Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

The defendants’ lawyers have previously said they had the right to associate under Hong Kong’s Basic Law — the legal framework created when Great Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997.

Zen’s trial has received international attention this week, with several Catholic leaders and human rights activists expressing solidarity for the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.

Paul Marshall, the director of the Religious Freedom Institute’s South and Southeast Asia Action Team, told CNA that Zen’s trial “further undercuts China’s 1997 promise of ‘one country, two systems’ when Hong Kong was returned to its rule and shows the government cannot be trusted to keep its agreements.”

“The prosecution and trial of 90-year-old Cardinal Zen for peacefully raising funds shows the extreme lengths to which the Chinese government will go to crush any vestiges of dissent and free religion in Hong Kong or the mainland,” he said.

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