HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday arrested a Roman Catholic cardinal, a singer and at least two others on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces to endanger China’s national security, according to reports.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, singer-actress Denise Ho, lawyer Margaret Ng and academic Hui Po-keung have been arrested by Hong Kong national security police, the human rights group has said. Hong Kong Watch UK based man.
The arrests were apparently related to their roles as trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided legal aid to people who took part in 2019 pro-democracy protests that were suppressed by security forces, the group said. The fund closed in 2021, he said.
Dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under a sweeping national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020 following the protests. The city’s independent media has been gutted and its legislature reorganized to fill it with Beijing loyalists.
Zen, the retired archbishop of Hong Kong, is a fierce critic of China and has been scathing in his condemnation of the Vatican’s 2018 deal with Beijing on bishops’ appointments, which he says was a betrayal of underground Christians in China.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Holy See “learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following developments with extreme attention.”
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Ho was also outspoken in his defense of civil and political rights. Her manager, Jelly Cheng, confirmed Ho’s arrest but said she had no further information.
Hui was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport as he sought to leave the city, Hong Kong Watch said.
“Today’s arrests are a clear signal that Beijing intends to intensify its crackdown on fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” said the group’s chief executive, Benedict Rogers.
“We urge the international community to shed light on this brutal crackdown and call for the immediate release of these activists,” Rogers said.
Several prominent Kong Kong activists have fled to Taiwan, Britain or elsewhere, while thousands of other Hong Kongers have chosen to leave the city, raising concerns about the economic future of the Asian financial center of 7.4 million inhabitants.
The arrests follow Sunday’s selection of Hong Kong’s new leader, John Lee, a hardline former security chief who ran unopposed in a Beijing-controlled process.
The European Union and the foreign ministers of the industrialized countries of the Group of Seven – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – condemned the election as fundamentally undemocratic and a betrayal of the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong was supposed to retain its own political, legal and economic system for 50 years after the end of British colonial rule.
The Hong Kong government and police had no immediate comment on the reported arrests.
Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said she understands a fifth person, former Legislative Council member Cyd Ho Sau-lan, was also arrested.
Arresting Zen for his peaceful activities “must be a shocking new low for Hong Kong, illustrating the free fall of human rights in the city over the past two years,” Wang said in a statement.
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