(TibetanReview.net, May12’22) – Like Tibet Autonomous Region, Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region only in name, as the arrest of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal and three others under China’s national security law for Hong Kong triggered international outrage and deepened concerns over Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in the financial hub. The four are currently on bail and among more than 180 people arrested under the law so far, reported the AFP May 12.
Hong Kong police arrested retired cardinal Joseph Zen, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, and the other veteran democracy advocates on May 11 for allegedly “colluding with foreign forces”.
The other three were Cantonese pop singer Denise Ho, veteran barrister Margaret Ng and prominent cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung. Hui Po-keung was held as he attempted to fly to Europe to take up an academic post, the report said.
Following severe international criticism of the arrests, China stepped in to defend the move. “The persons concerned are suspected of conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security an act of severe nature,” the report quoted the Commissioner’s Office, which represents Beijing’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong, as saying.
The four were held for their involvement in a now-disbanded defence fund that helped pay legal and medical costs for those arrested during the huge and sometimes violent wave of democracy protests which hit Hong Kong three years ago.
Those charged are typically denied bail and can face up to life in prison if convicted, the report noted.
The United States, Canada and the EU were among the governments and inter-government bodies that criticzed the arrests. Ho, a popular Hong Kong singer and LGBTQ campaigner, is also a Canadian national.
“Even by Hong Kong’s recent standards of worsening repression, these arrests represent a shocking escalation,” Amnesty International has said.
The Vatican which has signed a secret deal with China on the selection of bishops in the country, has said it was concerned by Zen’s arrest and “following the development of the situation very closely”. Zen was a severe critic of the deal.
Ta Kung Pao, a nationalist newspaper that answers to Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, published an article Maty 12, accusing those arrested of “six crimes”, the report said.
These were stated to include funding lobbying trips and activist meetings with British lawmakers, providing financial aid to Hong Kong “rioters” who had fled to Canada and Taiwan, and accepting donations from overseas and the now-shuttered Apple Daily newspaper.
Most of these alleged actions took place before the enactment of the law, which is not supposed to be retroactive, the report noted.
Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy democratic freedoms for 50 years as a part of a deal between China and Great Britain for the island’s return to Chinese rule which took place in 1997. But following the adoption Jul 2020 of China’s National Security Law for Hong Kong, the so-called “one country, two systems” status for the island promised by Beijing effectively came to an end.