HONG KONG (AP) — A 90-year-old Catholic cardinal and five other people from Hong Kong were sentenced to pay a fine after being found guilty Friday of failing to register a now-defunct fund intended to help people detained during the extensive protests of three years ago.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, a retired bishop and city democracy advocate, came to court dressed in black and carrying a cane. He was first arrested in May on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces under a National Security Law imposed by Beijing. His arrest shocked the Catholic community, but the Vatican limited itself to stating that it was closely monitoring the development of the situation.
Although Zen and other activists in the trial have yet to be indicted on national security-related charges, they were indicted for failing to properly register the so-called 612 Humanitarian Aid Fund, which helped pay the medical and legal fees of protesters arrested from 2019. The fund ceased operations in October 2021.
Zen, along with singer Denise Ho, academic Hui Po Keung and former pro-democracy lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho were trustees of the fund. They were each sentenced to pay a fine of HK$4,000 (US$512). A sixth defendant, Sze Ching-wee, was the secretary of the fund and was fined HK$2,500 ($320).
The law called the Societies Ordinance requires local organizations to register or apply for exemption within one month of their establishment. Those who fail to do so face a fine of up to HK$10,000 ($1,273), without jail time, on the first conviction.
In delivering the verdict, Chief Magistrate Ada Yim ruled that the fund was required to be registered as it was not for purely charitable purposes.
The trial was significant as it was the first time city residents had faced charges for failing to register under the ordinance, Ng told reporters after the hearing.