Hong Kong police arrest 90-year-old religious leader and 74-year-old barrister for threatening ‘national security’

Domestic News

Being a nonagenarian spiritual leader won’t stop Hong Kong’s cops from arresting you if they deem you a threat to government rule. Today the territory's police nabbed a retired bishop, a former barrister and politician, a pop star, and a retired academic.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

Hong Kong’s national security police arrested four people on Wednesday, including one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, and a former barrister, for “colluding with foreign forces.”

The four were trustees of the now-disbanded “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” that helped pay legal and medical fees for protesters in Hong Kong who had been arrested during the anti-government protests in 2019. Those arrested are:

  • Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun (陳日君 Chén Rìjūn), a 90-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong.
  • Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee (吳靄儀 Wú Ǎiyí), a 74-year-old former opposition lawmaker who also served on the city’s Legislative Council.
  • Denise Ho Wan-sze (何韻詩 Hé Yùnshī), a 45-year-old singer and actress.
  • Hui Po-keung (許寶強 Xǔ Bǎoqiáng), a former Lingnan University academic, apparently in his early 60s.

The fifth trustee of the humanitarian fund, Cyd Ho Sau-lan (何秀蘭 Hé Xiùlán, age 67), is already in jail for her role in illegal assemblies.

Cardinal Zen has been an outspoken advocate of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement that began in 2019, and a critic of the Vatican for its growing relationship with Beijing, drawing the ire of pro-Beijing commentators.

  • In 2020, Zen had tried and failed to meet Pope Francis on a trip to the Vatican in hopes of persuading him to appoint a new bishop in Hong Kong who could be “trusted by people.”
  • “The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” the Pope’s press office stated.

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The arrests follow the recent rubber-stamp election of John Lee Ka-chiu (李家超 Lǐ Jiāchāo), a former top security official, as Hong Kong’s new chief executive. Lee’s appointment was a signal to many of Beijing’s expanded control over the territory since passing the national security law in 2020. But the arrests should surprise no one:

Meanwhile, the controversial legislation of Article 23 in Hong Kong’s own Basic Law — which prohibits any act of treason, secession, sedition, or subversion against the central government — has been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak. The last and only other attempt to legislate the bill, which was shelved after more than 500,000 people took to the streets in protest, was back in 2003.

Nadya Yeh