Hong Kong cardinal is a fierce critic of Beijing

HONG KONG (AP) – Cardinal Joseph ZenThe 90-year-old Catholic cleric was arrested by Hong Kong police on national security charges and has long been accused of BeijingControl over religious and political monopolies, and efforts by the Vatican to strike working arrangements with the ruling Communist Party.

Zen left the police station on bail on Wednesday night his Arrested along with other former trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund, which provided aid to those arrested during anti-government protests in 2019.The former archbishop of Hong Kong has yet to comment his arrest.

The former director is suspected of making a request to a foreign or overseas institution to impose sanctions on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, endangering national security, the police said in a statement.

Widely condemned abroad, the arrests have furthered a campaign to crack down on all forms of dissent in the city under a sweeping national security law passed in 2020, a year after authorities cracked down on pro-democracy protests that challenged the challenge. Chinarule over Hong Kong.

The crackdown is increasingly infiltrating the city’s long-respected economic, religious and educational institutions, as well as NGOs, many of which have closed their operations in Hong Kong.City promises independence of speech, assembly and judiciary as it is handed over from the UK China 1997, but critics say Beijing has breached its warranty.

ChinaThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back, with spokesman Zhao Lijian saying, “We firmly oppose any actions that slander Hong Kong’s rule of law and interfere in Hong Kong affairs.”

“Hong Kong is a society ruled by law, no organization or individual is above the law, and all illegal acts will be punished by law,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

In addition, the Foreign Ministry’s office in Hong Kong issued a statement saying, “Maintaining national security is justified, and foreign interference is futile.”

Zen tried to build bridges with CCP-controlled Catholic churches by visiting China Beijing– Mainland accredited seminaries China. But he also said these experiences showed his lack of religious freedom China And deepened distrust of the official atheistic ruling party.

China In 1951, it severed ties with the Holy See after the party took power and established its own church. Foreign priests were expelled, and many of their Chinese colleagues spent decades in prisons or labor camps.

In recent years, the Vatican, especially under Pope Francis, has been eager to strike a deal with the Chinese government to unite the Church.

Zen has been particularly harsh on some at the Vatican for trying to reach arrangements with the party for the appointment of bishops on the mainland, a power traditionally exercised by the Holy See. Beijing claim for yourself.

In 2018, he warned that the Vatican would China gave up too much power Beijing would lock up Catholics in this country in a big “birdcage”.

“The Communist government just wants the church to surrender because they want complete control, not only of the Catholic Church, but of all religions,” Zen said at the time.

A tacit agreement was reportedly reached in 2018, China The name was submitted to the Vatican for approval, but it had little noticeable effect on the relationship between the two parties. Zen has accused the Holy See of betraying underground Catholics who remain loyal to the Vatican.

Zen, a frequent blogger, posted about the excommunication of an underground bishop to prevent an excommunication Beijing.

Matteo Bruni, a Vatican spokesman, said on Wednesday that the Holy See was “concerned about the news of Cardinal Zeng’s arrest and is closely following the evolution of the situation.”

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong also issued a statement on Thursday expressing “extreme concern” about Chen’s condition and safety.

“We have always upheld the rule of law. We believe that in the future we will continue to enjoy religious freedom in Hong Kong under the Basic Law,” it said, referring to the city’s mini-constitution.

In a city where Christians are a minority but many hold elite positions, especially in government and education, Zen has enormous political clout.

Born to a Catholic family in Shanghai in 1932, he traveled to Hong Kong, then a British colony, in 1948, the year before the Communist Party took over the mainland.

When Zen and other Hong Kongers watched student-led pro-democracy protests unfold in Hong Kong in 1989 China before brutal military repression BeijingTiananmen Square left many dead.

He took on the activist role after being appointed junior bishop of Hong Kong in 1996, a year before Britain handed over control of the city to the city. Beijing. he often gets irritated Chinaof the Communist Party leaders, they called him a “Vatican agent”.

Zen supports the city’s pro-democracy movement and is an outspoken critic of proposals for anti-subversion legislation that officials have been forced to shelve. He went on a three-day hunger strike to protest government plans to limit the church’s influence in public schools.

The little bishop took over as the diocese of Hong Kong in 2002, and Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2006, which he said showed the pontiff’s concern China. Zen retired from Hongkong Post in 2009.

Also arrested Wednesday was singer and actress Denise Ho, who has been outspoken on issues ranging from the pro-democracy movement to LGBTQ rights.

He was previously banned in the mainland China She lost her commercial endorsement after publicly supporting the 2014 Umbrella Movement, which pushed to expand democratic rights.

She was arrested in December after police raided an independent online news site where she served on its board and accused her of conspiring to publish seditious publications.

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Associated Press writer Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

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