Cardinal Zeng and other pro-democracy activists released after arrest in Hong Kong

Retired Roman Catholic bishop at 90 Chinaof the communist regime, was one of several democracy advocates arrested by Hong Kong police on Wednesday and released on bail late at night.

The White House is among those expressing condemnation and concern over the detention of Cardinal Chen and his former colleagues by the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which assists protesters with legal and medical bills. The fund closed last year due to strict laws imposed on the former British colony in 2020. Chinagovernment in Beijing.

“freedom of speech [is] vital to a prosperous and secure society,” White House deputy press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre told reporters at a news conference on Air Force One.

“We call on the People’s Republic of China [People’s Republic of China] and Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting Hong Kong advocates and immediately release those who have been unjustly detained and charged, such as Cardinal Joseph Tseng … and others arrested today,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.

Neither the Hong Kong government nor Beijing authorities have commented on the arrests.

Reports indicate that three other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Fund were arrested along with Cardinal Zen. Actress and singer Stanley Ho, lawyer Wu Majia and academic Xu Baoqiang were also detained. Human rights group Amnesty International said the now-defunct group’s fifth trustee, Cyd Ho, had been detained on other charges and remained in prison.

“Even by the standards of Hong Kong’s recent worsening crackdown, these arrests represent a shocking escalation,” Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director Owen van der Bolt said in a statement. “Some of the city’s most respected democrats, whose activism has been completely peaceful, could now face years in prison. There are few poignant examples of the total breakdown of human rights in Hong Kong.”

Among several voices in Congress condemning the arrest, Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, slammed the China‘s leadership.

“President Xi — the most powerful dictator in the world — absolutely fears a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal. Xi is a pathetic coward,” the Nebraska Republican said in a statement. “The Chinese Communist Party cannot deny the courage of Cardinal Chen and other Chinese heroes.”

Former U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback called the move a “new low” for the country, saying, “ChinaThe leadership for their reckless disregard for the rule of law and basic civil liberties should be immediately sanctioned. “

The president of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also slammed the move.

“Today’s detention of Cardinal Chen on national security charges is an ominous sign that heralds a further deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong, including religious freedom,” said Nadine Maenza.

Cardinal Chen was born in Shanghai and grew up in a Catholic family where his parents took him to Mass five times a week. He was ordained bishop of Hong Kong in 2000, promoted to cardinal in 2006, and retired in 2009. He harshly criticized the Vatican’s deal with 2018. China Recognition of ordained bishops acceptable Chinacommunist government.

At the time, BBC News reported that the bishop slammed the deal in a Facebook post: “Do I think the Vatican is betraying the Catholic Church? China? Yes, of course, if they’re heading in a direction that’s obvious from everything they’ve done in recent years and months. “

Despite the apparent disagreement, the Vatican on Wednesday expressed concern over Cardinal Chen’s detention.

“The Holy See is concerned to learn of Cardinal Zeng’s arrest and is extremely concerned about the evolution of the situation,” said Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni, according to the Vatican’s official news agency.

Condemnation poured in from all over the world. Lord David Alton, a member of the British House of Lords, called the arrest a “heinous act of intimidation” on Twitter.

Maya Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, also tweeted her concerns.

“The arrest of a 90-year-old cardinal for his peaceful activities must be a shocking new low in Hong Kong, illustrating the city’s human rights free fall over the past two years,” Ms Wang tweeted.

She also said, “The arrest of a human rights advocate just days after the Chinese government appointed former security chief John Lee as Hong Kong’s chief executive is an ominous sign that its crackdown on Hong Kong will only escalate.”

Jeff Mordock contributed to this article, which is based in part on the Wire Transfer Services report.

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