The Standard, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, reported that Zen was arrested on Wednesday evening local time, along with other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The fund, which is no longer active, was created in 2019 to assist with the legal fees for pro-democracy protesters.
EWTN host Raymond Arroyo tweeted on May 11 that Zen’s arrest was “heartbreaking and tragic news.”
“I await comment and protest from the Vatican,” Arroyo added.
Sam Goodman, the advocacy director at the human rights organization Hong Kong Watch, told the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail that he hoped the Vatican would condemn the arrest and call for Zen’s release.
Goodman also said that he hoped the Vatican would reconsider what he described as “its silence regarding the ongoing human rights violations in Hong Kong and China more broadly.”
Benedict Rogers, the chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, said the arrests for alleged “collusion with foreign forces” were “unbelievably horrific.”
“And to arrest a 90 year old Cardinal, @CardJosephZen, a truly great man, a hero, is especially egregious,” Rogers wrote on his Twitter account.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Freedom of Religion or Belief, a cross-party group of U.K. parliamentarians, also condemned Zen’s arrest.
“This is yet another example of China’s increasing restrictions of fundamental human rights,” it said in a Twitter post.
David Alton, an independent member of the House of Lords, the upper house of the U.K. parliament, described the cardinal’s arrest as “an act of outrageous intimidation.”
William Nee, research and advocacy coordinator of the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, linked the arrests to the election of Hong Kong’s new chief executive John Lee.
(Story continues below)
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“Today’s arrests in Hong Kong signal an ever darker turn under the leadership of John Lee,” he tweeted.
“The arrest of Cardinal Zen sends a chilling message for the prospects of freedom of religion in Hong Kong, and ironically proves that his warnings about the dangers of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] were prophetic,” he added.
Zen, who was the bishop of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, is an outspoken supporter of democracy in the city, which is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China.
Joseph Bukuras is a journalist at the Catholic News Agency. Joe has prior experience working in state and federal government, in non-profits, and Catholic education. He has contributed to an array of publications and his reporting has been cited by leading news sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America. He is based out of the Boston area.