07/14/2022, 12.44
RED LANTERNS
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Hong Kong, PIME missionary on hunger strike calls for freedom for political prisoners

Fr. Mella begins a three-day protest in front of Shek Pik prison. He urged the imprisoned activists not to lose hope. In January, he had demonstrated calling for the release of Catholic tycoon Jimmy Lai. Since the imposition of the security law, police have arrested nearly 200 people; 113 have ended up on trial.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - A protest began today in front of Shek Pik prison for the release of activists and pro-democracy figures detained under the draconian National Security Act. Fr Franco Mella, a PIME missionary, told the media present that he will go on hunger strike for three days, despite the scorching heat of these days.

The 74-year-old cleric is no stranger to protests of this kind. Last January, together with Catholic and Protestant personalities, Fr Mella called for amnesty for Catholic publishing magnate Jimmy Lai and other democratic figures. They are all detained or remanded in custody on charges of violating the security law, which also carries life sentences. Some of them have been awaiting trial for over a year.

Since 1999 Fr. Mella has been demonstrating every year with others for the right to family reunification of Chinese children and wives related to Hong Kong citizens. As Reuters reports, in 2019 he participated in the pro-democracy demonstrations that triggered Beijing's crackdown.

Stressing the great heat, Fr Mella spoke of the suffering of those in prison and sent them a message: '"The messages (are) we are with you, don't lose hope. Let's continue to fight for everybody's freedom". The missionary added that the inhabitants of the city would have more confidence in the future if the authorities would release the imprisoned pro-democracy personalities.

Imposed by the Chinese central government two years ago, the National Security Law has led to the arrest of nearly 200 people; those indicted number 113 - many of them, however, have more than one charge. In addition to the arrests, several pro-democracy parties and groups disbanded with the introduction of the measure, many independent media closed down or moved abroad, and thousands of people fled the city.

In May, the National Security Police had also arrested Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of the city and a well-known supporter of the democracy movement. The initial charge was serious: 'collusion' with foreign forces. A court then sent Card. Zen and five well-known members of the democratic front for the less serious charge of failing to properly register a humanitarian fund of which they were trustees. The trial against them will begin on 19 September.

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