Hong Kong police arrest retired Catholic cardinal on national security charges, release on bail

Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested a retired Roman Catholic cardinal who served as the city’s bishop and at least three others on charges of “collaborating with foreign powers to endanger China’s national security,” according to media reports.

The 90-year-old retired Cardinal Chen Ruoyu was released on bail from Chai Wan Police Station at 11pm on Wednesday, the Free Press Agency of Hong Kong tweeted. According to a report in American Magazine, a Jesuit publication, he was said to be “frail.”

The cardinal “didn’t speak. He then got into a private car parked outside the police station. According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the 90-year-old was accompanied by five people when he left the police station.

Three other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Fund, the now-disbanded group that provided financial aid to pro-democracy protesters in the city, were arrested along with Cardinal Zen. Actress and singer Stanley Ho, lawyer Margaret Wu and academic Xu Baoqiang were detained under the provisions of the 2020 National Security Law enacted by Beijing following pro-democracy demonstrations in the former British colony.

Some media reports say a fourth trustee has been detained. No information was immediately available on the bail status of any of the trustees.

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

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“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.

Cardinal Chan was Bishop of Hong Kong from 2000 to 2009. He has been harshly critical of the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with China that recognized bishop appointments acceptable to the Chinese Communist government.

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.

The global response has been almost all negative. 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 later added, “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 this article, based in part on the Telegram service report.

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