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By Jessie Pang
HONG KONG (Reuters) -Considered one of Asia’s most senior Roman Catholic clerics, Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, was discovered responsible of failing to register a now-disbanded fund for pro-democracy protesters and fined HK$4,000($512) on Friday by a Hong Kong court docket.
The Might arrest of Zen and 4 others by the town’s nationwide safety police had triggered criticism from some Western governments, because it was seen to be a part of a crackdown on dissent underneath a sweeping nationwide safety regulation imposed by China.
In her judgment, Principal Justice of the Peace Ada Yim mentioned the fund “had political targets and thus it was not established solely for charitable functions”.
4 different trustees of the fund, together with barrister Margaret Ng, scholar Hui Po-keung, politician Cyd Ho and singer Denise Ho had been fined the identical quantity, whereas Sze Ching-wee, its secretary, was fined a smaller quantity.
Zen, who has lengthy been a staunch advocate of democratic rights and freedoms and a critic of the Chinese language Communist Social gathering, careworn that the fund had aimed to assist folks in want.
“I am only a Hong Kong citizen who strongly helps offering humanitarian help,” he advised reporters after the decision.
“Though I am a spiritual determine, I hope this (case) will not be related to our freedom of faith. It is not associated.”
The six had been charged with failing to register the “612 Humanitarian Reduction Fund” that helped these arrested throughout pro-democracy protests in 2019 to pay authorized and medical charges. All pleaded not responsible.
The Vatican had expressed concern for the security of Zen, although it stopped in need of explicitly criticising authorities on the time.
On Friday, Yim dominated that the fund was a neighborhood society run like a belief fund and the committee members shared widespread political beliefs and objectives.
Prosecutor Anthony Chau advised the court docket that requiring the fund to register didn’t infringe on freedom of affiliation, including that it had spent many of the donations of greater than HK$450 million ($57 million) it obtained.
“It is the primary time ever that anybody needed to serve this cost underneath the societies ordinance for failing to register,” mentioned Ng, the lawyer.
The group would take time to resolve its subsequent steps as freedom of affiliation in Hong Kong stays “extraordinarily necessary”, she added.
Zen was represented by lawyer Robert Pang, who advised the court docket the fund shouldn’t be thought of an affiliation or society, arguing that the defendants weren’t members of a society and had solely helped run a fund.
Even after the decision, authorities may nonetheless take additional motion in opposition to Zen and the remainder, as police examine an accusation of “collusion with overseas forces”.