The trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen resumed in Hong Kong this week, days after the Vatican announced the renewal of its agreement with Beijing.
The cardinal has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Vatican’s agreement with China on the ordination of bishops since it was first signed in 2018.
Cardinal Zen and five other pro-democracy activists have been charged for failing to apply for local society registration for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund between 2019 and 2021.
On Wednesday, the prosecution argued that the Fund needed to be registered with the police because of its “massive” size and “systematic” mode of operation.
Authorities, however, maintained that they never barred the creation of the legal fund.
The West Kowloon Court began hearing the closing submissions of the parties in the cause this week after ruling last month that there was a case to answer for the six defendants.
Cardinal Zen, 90, was prosecuted for his role as a fund trustee alongside singer Denise Ho Wan-see, former Lingnan University academic Hui Po-keung, and ex-opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee and Cyd Ho Sau-lan.
A sixth defendant, Sze Ching-wee, was charged over his role as the fund’s secretary.
Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance stipulates that a society must register with the societies officer, who is the police commissioner, or ask for an exemption, within one month of its establishment.
Offenders can be fined HK$10,000 (US$1,274) upon a first breach.
A society is defined as “any club, company, partnership or association of persons, whatever the nature or objects, to which the provisions of [the] ordinance apply.”
Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang maintained that the fund, initially set up to support those injured or arrested during the extradition bill movement in 2019, was political in nature and did not qualify for an exemption.
All the defendants have pleaded not guilty. – with a report from CNA