Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun departs the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, Nov. 18, 2014. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
The Vatican said on Wednesday that it was concerned to hear of reports of the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen by authorities in Hong Kong.
“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,” said a May 11 statement from the Holy See press office.
The 90-year-old former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong was reportedly detained on May 11 in his role as a trustee of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.
The Standard newspaper reported that the trustees were arrested on Wednesday evening local time, according to sources.
The fund, which was founded in 2019, disbanded last year after the national security police ordered it to share operational details, the newspaper said.
Zen, who stood down as Hong Kong’s Catholic bishop in 2009, is an outspoken supporter of the pro-democracy movement.
In 2020, a sweeping National Security Law came into force, criminalizing previously protected civil liberties under the headings of “sedition“ and “foreign collusion.”
Reuters reported that Zen and four others — Canadian-Hong Kong pop star Denise Ho, academic Hui Po Keung, and former opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho — were arrested for alleged “collusion with foreign forces.”
Before the law’s implementation, many Catholics, including Zen, warned that it could be used to silence the Church in Hong Kong.