Why is 90-year-old Cardinal Zen standing trial in Hong Kong? | News

Political activist Alex Chow has not forgotten the kindness of Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the retired head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, who came around him when he was behind bars 5 years in the past.

Cardinal Zen has lengthy been recognized for his work as a jail chaplain. On the day Chow met him on the Pik Uk correctional centre, a most safety jail in Hong Kong’s New Territories, the aged priest had taken a public minibus to the jail, some 40 minutes journey into the hills from the densely-packed metropolis.

The 2 talked for 45 minutes, “possibly an hour”, with the jail officer giving up his seat so Zen, then in his mid-80s, may sit down.  For Chow, jailed for his function within the peaceable 2014 Occupy Hong Kong protests, the cardinal was a supply of consolation and reassurance and a much-needed connection to the skin world.

“It meant lots to me,” Chow, who was later launched on bail forward of the attraction he finally received, advised Al Jazeera. “I may see his real concern for others and staunch opposition to injustice. I felt like I used to be genuinely in his prayers and one of many folks he cared about.”

The 90-year-old former head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong now faces a trial of his personal.

On Monday he’ll face court docket with 5 others, together with standard Cantopop singer and LGBTQ activist Denise Ho, and lawyer Margaret Ng over a now-defunct fund that they set as much as assist pay the authorized charges of individuals dealing with trial in relation to the 2019 protests.

They had been arrested in early Could underneath the Nationwide Safety Legislation and accused of “colluding with international forces”.

Launched on bail, they had been charged on Could 24 with failing to register the fund.

From left, Hong Kong scholar Hui Po-keung, Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, barrister Margaret Ng and singer Denise Ho arrive for an appearance at a court in Hong Kong
Cardinal Zen was leaning on a strolling stick for help as he arrived in court docket with fellow defendants – scholar Hui Po-keung, left, lawyer Margaret Ng and singer Denise Ho – in Could [File: Kin Cheung/AP Photo]

All have pleaded not responsible and, within the 5 days allotted for proceedings, their defence is predicted to argue that the group had a proper to affiliate underneath Hong Kong’s Primary Legislation, the mini-constitution that has been in place for the reason that British handed the territory over to China in 1997.

Beijing imposed the safety regulation in June 2020.

“The Chinese language authorities needs to chop off all types of organizing and solidarity that run outdoors of the Communist Occasion’s management in Hong Kong,” William Nee, analysis and advocacy coordinator at Chinese language Human Rights Defenders, mentioned in an emailed response to questions. “The truth that Cardinal Zen is compassionate, caring, and well-respected in Hong Kong truly makes him a risk to the ruling authorities.”

Vatican criticised

Zen was ordained in 1996 and named Bishop of Hong Kong in 2002, changing into the chief of the territory’s Catholics, now numbering greater than 400,000. In 2006, in a ceremony in Rome, he was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict.

All through his profession, Zen has proven help for democratic reform and giving the folks of Hong Kong extra say of their authorities. He held a “walkathon” for common suffrage, lots in remembrance of the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Sq. and visited the Occupy Hong Kong website to supply ethical help to the hundreds who had gathered there.

After his retirement in 2009, Zen turned extra essential of Beijing, which broke off relations with the Vatican in 1951 and created its personal Communist Occasion-led Chinese language Patriotic Catholic Affiliation. He has been particularly essential of a 2018 deal underneath which Pope Francis recognised seven bishops appointed by Beijing, which was presupposed to deliver the mainland’s Catholics, thought to quantity about 12 million, collectively.

“Cardinal Zen made the final word self-sacrifice,” Andreas Fulda, creator of The Battle for Democracy in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, advised Al Jazeera in emailed feedback. “Deep down he will need to have recognized that the dictatorship in Beijing would by no means budge. Undeterred he advocated for Christians in mainland China. Firmly dedicated to the precept of non-violence he was a part of an influential ecumenical alliance of religion leaders advocating for liberal democracy in Hong Kong.”

Pope Benedict XVI (L) gives the ring to new cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun during a Holy Mass in St. Peter Square, Saturday 25 March 2006 i
Zen turned the pinnacle of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong in 2002 and was made a cardinal by Pope Benedict in March 2006 [File: Ettore Ferrari/EPA]

The Catholic Church has been criticised for failing to take a firmer stand over Zen’s arrest and trial.

After he was charged on Could 24, pictured strolling into court docket leaning closely on a stick, the church launched a brief assertion noting that he had pleaded not responsible and that it will “carefully monitor” occasions.

“Cardinal Zen is all the time in our prayers and we invite all to hope for the Church,” it concluded.

On Thursday, when the pope was requested about spiritual freedom in China and Zen’s looming trial, he mentioned that whereas it was “not simple to know the Chinese language mentality”, it needed to be “revered”, in accordance with a report in Catholic Information.

On Zen, he mentioned: “He says what he feels and we see that there are limitations [in Hong Kong]”.

The pope, who spoke as he flew house from the Congress of Leaders of World and Conventional Religions in Kazakhstan, added that he most well-liked to “select the trail of dialogue”.

Reviews mentioned China’s President Xi Jinping, who was additionally on the assembly, refused an invite for talks with the pope as a result of his schedule was full.

‘Objective of life’

Zen’s trial is the newest in reference to the 2019 protests, which started with mass marches in opposition to a proposed invoice that might permit extradition to the mainland and, amid a perceived lack of motion from the federal government and heavy-handed police techniques, advanced into typically violent calls for for extra democracy within the Chinese language-ruled territory.

The group arrange the 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund in July 2019, naming it after the primary severe confrontation between protesters and police the earlier month outdoors the barricaded constructing of the Legislative Council the place politicians had been as a consequence of debate the contentious invoice. Police used rubber-coated bullets and tear fuel in opposition to protesters, and dozens had been arrested.

They wound up the fund in October final 12 months after police introduced that it was underneath investigation.

The fund’s closure, and the trial of those that based it, may also have repercussions for the hundreds dealing with expenses from the 2019 protests whose authorized prices may run into the tons of of hundreds of Hong Kong {dollars}.

CHRD’s Nee mentioned the shortage of funding choices may undermine these defendants’ proper to a good trial.

“It was potential earlier than to crowdsource a few of these prices however by slicing off the power to take action, Beijing will make it way more troublesome for folks to afford the authorized sources to mount a strong defence,” he famous.

Zen has been out on bail pending trial.

At his first public look after his arrest, he addressed the Salesian Vocations Workplace (China Province) about his motivations in life and why he had entered the priesthood.

He famous that the world was “chaotic” and that some had been pushed by the necessity to pursue “cash, wealth, and energy” however he believed life meant studying what it means to be an individual of integrity, crammed with a way of justice and kindness.

“That is the aim of life,” the retired bishop mentioned.

Regardless of his longstanding help for democratic reform, Zen had largely averted any backlash from the authorities.

After the bishop’s arrest, newly-installed Hong Kong chief John Lee, a former police officer and safety chief, mentioned the arrest was not associated to Zen’s background or beliefs, however that individuals who broke the regulation wanted to be held to account.

For Chow, now residing in america, the choice to arrest and prosecute a person many in Hong Kong regard because the territory’s “ethical conscience” is additional proof of how a lot the territory has modified.

“Him being prosecuted is telling,” he mentioned. “It actually exhibits how the Hong Kong authorities has shifted its mentality [and] the longer term trajectory of the way it may method spiritual freedom or political speech; whether or not Hong Kong will stay a free society or whether or not that’s lengthy gone.”

China’s President Xi to visit Hong Kong for anniversary | Xi Jinping News

Xi will attend a number of occasions together with the inauguration of Hong Kong’s subsequent chief on Friday, deputy police chief has stated.

Hong Kong police have confirmed that Chinese language President Xi Jinping will go to the town this week for the twenty fifth anniversary of the previous British colony’s return to Chinese language rule.

Xi will attend a number of official occasions together with the inauguration of Hong Kong’s subsequent chief, former safety chief John Lee, on Friday, Assistant Police Commissioner Lui Kam-ho stated at a information convention on Tuesday.

The Chinese language chief’s go to shall be his first journey exterior mainland China for the reason that coronavirus pandemic took maintain about two and half years in the past.

The go to comes as Hong Kong is dealing with a brand new spike in infections following what was by far its worst and deadliest COVID-19 outbreak earlier this 12 months.

The UK returned Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. The anniversary is very symbolic for Xi, who needs to be seen as propelling a “nationwide rejuvenation” as he prepares to begin an anticipated third five-year time period as head of China’s ruling Communist Occasion later this 12 months.

A part of that rejuvenation is erasing the legacy of colonialism and what the celebration regards as unequal treaties that granted territorial concessions to Britain and different international nations in the course of the waning years of the Qing Dynasty, which led to 1911.

Friday may also mark the midway level of the so-called “one nation, two programs” framework which was purported to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedoms and lifestyle for a minimum of 50 years.

In July 2017, Xi attended the swearing-in of Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam as a part of a three-day journey, which additionally included a go to to the native Chinese language military barracks.

However the protests that accompanied that journey are unlikely to be repeated this 12 months, as a result of a Beijing-imposed nationwide safety regulation has successfully stifled any criticism or dissent.

A collection of safety measures shall be put in place to guard Xi, together with safety zones and street closures across the venue for the ceremony, police stated.

Limitations have already been erected within the space.

“We is not going to tolerate something that will intervene and undermine the safety operation,” Lui stated.

“Within the occasion that any particular person behaves in a fashion that threatens life or property and undermines public order or endangers public security, we are going to take resolute motion,” Lui added.

Hong Kong GDP falls more than expected as COVID curbs bite | Business and Economy

Financial system shrinks 4 p.c within the January-to-March interval from a 12 months earlier, in line with advance estimates.

Hong Kong’s financial system contracted final quarter for the primary time in additional than a 12 months as native restrictions to curb Covid hit exercise and China’s personal omicron outbreak disrupted commerce.

Gross home product fell 4% within the January-to-March interval from a 12 months earlier, in line with advance estimates launched by the federal government on Tuesday. The quantity — Hong Kong’s first because the finish of 2020 — was far worse than a median estimate of a 1.3% contraction in a Bloomberg survey. It was additionally the most important contraction because the third quarter of 2020.

Town confronted “immense strain” within the first quarter of 2022, a authorities spokesperson was quoted as saying in a launch from the Census and Statistics Division accompanying the info. Town’s fifth coronavirus wave, together with moderating international demand development and “epidemic-induced cross boundary transportation disruptions,” all dragged on the financial system, the particular person mentioned.

Forward of the info, there have been indicators of deep financial harm within the first three months of the 12 months, with retail gross sales collapsing greater than 14% in February and exports plunging 8.9% in March. Town imposed strict social restrictions throughout the quarter — together with a ban on dining-in after 6 p.m. and shutting gyms and wonder salons — to battle a coronavirus wave that killed hundreds and contaminated greater than 1 million folks.

“This reveals how personal consumption, retail gross sales and the pandemic in China have hit development,” mentioned Samuel Tse, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd in Hong Kong. Tse had forecast a 1.2% contraction due to a low base of comparability with the primary quarter of final 12 months.

The Asian finance hub is now slowly beginning to reopen, which means the first-quarter hunch might mark the low level within the development cycle. On Tuesday, the federal government accelerated reopening plans, and can on Thursday enable eight folks to eat collectively, up from 4 beforehand, together with different easing measures. Two weeks later, dining-in hours can be prolonged from 10 p.m. till midnight, Chief Government Carrie Lam mentioned at a briefing.

Nonetheless, a lot will rely on China’s personal outbreak and Covid controls, which have made it tough to move items to and from the mainland. Exports from Hong Kong to China dropped 12.8% in March from a 12 months in the past, in line with official figures.

Commerce disruptions from China and weak exterior demand might linger for at the very least the subsequent month, Tse mentioned, including that he expects one other contraction within the second quarter.