A 90-year-old Catholic leader has appeared in a Hong Kong court accused of breaking China’s national security law.
Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested along with five others – including singer Denise Ho and former opposition politicians Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho – two weeks ago on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces.
The six were trustees of the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which was set up in 2019 to help anti-government protesters with legal or medical costs.
They appeared at Hong Kong’s West Kowloon court on Tuesday and denied charges of failing to register the relief fund as an organisation with police – an offence that could incur a fine of up to 10,000 Hong Kong dollars (£1,000).
The case will now go to trial on 19 September and is expected to last five days.
Police launched an investigation into the fund on national security grounds in September 2021. A month later, the fund said it would stop operating, citing the city’s deteriorating political environment.
Cardinal Zen’s arrest was condemned internationally, with the Vatican saying it was monitoring developments.
Beijing imposed the national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 to clamp down on dissent.
It outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, and has since been used to arrest more than 150 people.
Pro-democracy news outlets such as Apple Daily and Stand News have been forced to shut following national security investigations.
Electoral laws have also been amended to ensure only “patriots” are allowed to govern, effectively preventing pro-democracy supporters from taking office.