Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen's trial reopens with intervention of public prosecutor
According to the prosecution, the humanitarian fund managed by the cardinal and five pro-democracy activists was political in nature and therefore should have been registered. The defence speaks of unconstitutional legislation. Trial adjourned until 31 October, when the defence lawyers will take the floor.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The trial of Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and five well-known members of the Democratic Front re-opened today. The city prosecutor accused the defendants of failing to properly register a humanitarian fund of which they were trustees.
On 11 May, police had arrested the city's bishop emeritus and the other defendants on the more serious charge of 'collusion' with foreign forces, a crime covered by the draconian security law imposed two years ago by Beijing. Without such an indictment, the defendants face a maximum fine of USD 1,750.
The 90-year-old cardinal is joined on the stand by renowned lawyer Margaret Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, former city deputy Cyd Ho, academic Hui Po-keung and activist Sze Ching-wee. Cyd Ho is already in jail for taking part in an unauthorised demonstration. Several democratic personalities are also in prison on teh same charge, including the Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Until its closure about a year ago, Fund 612 assisted thousands of pro-democracy protesters involved in the 2019 protests. The defendants pleaded not guilty: according to their defence lawyers, the charity was not obliged to register under the Societies Ordinance. According to the defence, the law in question is unconstitutional, as the definition it offers of 'society' is ambiguous, and its requirements go beyond what is necessary to protect national security and public order.
The prosecution argued instead that the Fund 612 was political in nature, and therefore not entitled to the public registration exemption. Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin also based his reasoning on the fact that the charity handled considerable donations (about USD 58 million), as well as organising press conferences and fundraisers, sponsoring 29 political campaigns and hiring staff.
Judge Ada Yim Shun-yee of the West Kowloon Court adjourned the trial until 31 October, when defence lawyers will take the floor.