Outspoken Catholic Cardinal Facing Charges From Chinese Government

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the leader of Hong Kong’s Catholic Church, is facing multiple charges from the Chinese government.

Zen has been an outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses for several years, leading many to question the true intent behind the government’s charges.

In May, Zen and five of his associates were arrested and charged with failing to properly register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided jailed pro-democracy protesters with legal and medical services.

In court this week, prosecutors said $30 million was funneled through the fund, with varying “political motivation[s],” including opposition to the Chinese government.

If convicted, Zen faces a fine. But he is also being investigated for crimes that could carry a sentence of up to life in prison.

In response, the Vatican has been treading lightly, which may be due to tension between the Catholic Church and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which is endorsed by the Chinese government.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” stated the Vatican press office.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin also towed this delicate line in his remarks concerning Zen’s arrest.

“I would like to express my closeness to the cardinal, who was freed and treated well,” he said. “The most concrete hope is that initiatives such as this one will not complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, however, was more assertive with her comments.

“So, freedom of expression is critical to prosperous and secure societies,” Jean-Pierre stated. “We call on PRC and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s advocates and to immediately release those who have been unjustly detained and charged, like Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and others arrested today.”

Zen is a native of Shanghai, and after 41 years of priesthood, became a bishop in Hong Kong in 2002. He was appointed as cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.