HONG KONG, Nov 25 — A 90-calendar year-outdated Hong Kong cardinal was amongst six dissidents convicted on Friday about their jogging of a multi-million-greenback defence fund for arrested anti-government protesters.
5 of the group had been fined HK$4,000 (RM2,290) for the crime of failing to correctly register the fund as a modern society, whilst a sixth received a smaller fantastic.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, 1 of Asia’s highest-rating Catholics, is amongst the scores of veteran activists struggling with legal threats as China stamps out protest in the former British colony.
The six were being arrested underneath sweeping nationwide stability laws that Beijing imposed in 2020, a year following the outbreak of enormous and often violent protests.
They are however to experience prices below that legislation, which can have a sentence of up to lifestyle in jail.
Amongst Zen’s co-convicted on Friday had been activist and singer Denise Ho, and veteran human rights barrister Margaret Ng.
All had pleaded not responsible, placing up a two-month trial.
On Friday, justice of the peace Ada Yim discovered “the only and irresistible inference” was that the fund was a “local society” and so issue to the rules.
“Considering the social and political situations in modern decades, if a society has connections with political teams… the society’s functions could have an impact on public purchase, general public peace and countrywide protection,” Yim explained.
Talking outdoors the court docket, Ng explained it was the 1st time any person experienced been convicted for failing to sign up a society, adding that it was “extremely essential in relation to the freedom of association in Hong Kong”.
Cardinal Zen’s arrest earlier this 12 months, for “colluding with international forces”, shocked the city’s Catholic neighborhood and renewed criticism of the Vatican’s warming ties with Beijing, such as from fellow senior clerics.
Also outdoors the court, Zen famous the issue overseas but insisted he was acting in his job as a humanitarian, not a cardinal, introducing that “Hong Kong has not noticed any harm to its spiritual freedom”.
Zen’s team acted as trustees and secretary of the now-defunct “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund”, which assisted spend authorized and health care prices for people arrested during the 2019 unrest.
The fund disbanded very last October soon after countrywide protection law enforcement demanded it hand more than operational details, including information about its donors and beneficiaries.
Prosecutors discovered in court docket that the fund had lifted as substantially as HK$270 million from extra than 100,000 independent donations.
They explained “part of the fund was made use of for political actions and non-charity events”, which include donations to protest groups and activists abroad.
The defence argued that the fund was “merely a title provided to a sum of money” and the defendants did not sort any culture.
It also challenged the law’s vagueness, stating it imposed disproportionate constraints on the independence of affiliation.
“The criminalisation for failure to sign up is without doubt a curb on these critical freedoms for civil culture,” defence counsel Gladys Li mentioned. — AFP