In the early hours of Wednesday, May 11, police arrested Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 90, bishop emeritus of the city of Hong Kong and a well-known supporter of the pro-democracy movement. This was stated by local sources and several media outlets in the city, according to which the arrest would be linked to the management of the 612 Fund, which until its closure helped thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators involved in the 2019 protests.
Cardinal Zen was one of the administrators of the 612 Fund organization, which ceased operations last October. Authorities have arrested him along with other promoters of the fund, including well-known lawyer Margaret Ng, academic Hui Po-keung and singer-songwriter Denise Ho. The law enforcement investigation is reportedly focusing on whether the 612 Fund "colluded" with foreign forces in violation of the national security law imposed by Beijing in the summer of 2020.
Cardinal Zen has long been in the crosshairs of the Chinese government. In January, the pro-regime press published several articles accusing him of inciting students to revolt in 2019 against a series of government measures.
The cardinal is disliked in Beijing for his criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's control over religious communities. He has condemned the removal of crosses from outside churches in China and has over the years celebrated masses in memory of the Tiananmen martyrs in Beijing: the young people massacred by the authorities on June 4, 1989 for demanding freedom and democracy. The cardinal is also against even the Vatican-China agreement on the appointment of bishops.
In response to questions from journalists, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, said that "the Holy See has learned with concern the news of the arrest of Cardinal Zen and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention."