China refutes West's irresponsible remarks on arrest of HK cardinal in the case of funding rioters
Published: May 12, 2022 06:02 PM
Former bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, singer Denise Ho Wan-see and other trustees of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” Photo: Wenweipo
Former bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, singer Denise Ho Wan-see and other trustees of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” Photo: Wenweipo

Chinese officials, legal experts and lawmakers refuted the remarks made by the US, Canada and the EU concerning the latest law enforcement activities in Hong Kong, after the Hong Kong police on Wednesday night arrested four trustees of the "612 Humanitarian Relief Fund" including former bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and singer Denise Ho Wan-see who actively supported the black-clad riot in the city in 2019.  

The National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) arrested them for allegedly colluding with foreign forces, and other two included former scholar Hui Po-keung and former lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee. The police also arrested former Legislative Council member Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who is already in prison for taking part in illegal assemblies, local media said on Thursday. 

A spokesperson for the Commissioner's Office of Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong expressed dissatisfaction and opposition to remarks by the US Department of State, Canadian Foreign Minister and EU officials over the arrests. Their remarks smeared the legitimate law enforcement by Hong Kong police. So-called rights and freedom are not a shield for illegal activities that cause rioting in HK, and foreign interference should stop such ill-intentioned actions, the spokesperson said. 

The US Department of State issued a statement following the arrests, saying that "Hong Kong authorities have again demonstrated they will pursue all means necessary to stifle dissent and undercut protected rights and freedoms." Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly claimed the "the ongoing targeting of civil society groups erodes the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents guaranteed under Hong Kong's Basic Law." 

The Vatican said it is following the development of the situation very closely after the arrest of Zen, according to media reports. 

"We noticed those reports. Hong Kong is a society ruled by law. No individual nor organization can be above the law, and all the illegal activities shall be punished in accordance with the law," Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said during a routine press conference on Thursday.

We firmly oppose any acts of smearing Hong Kong's rule of law and interfering in Hong Kong's affairs, Zhao said. 

The National Security Department of the HKPF has launched an investigation against the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund for suspected contravention of the National Security Law for Hong Kong or other Hong Kong laws, the police said in September 2021. The fund stopped operating in August 2021, as Hong Kong's former chief executive Leung Chun-ying raised doubts over the fund, which had not been formally registered, with no director, no registered address and no submission of annual reports nor tax returns. 

"It has been able to take care of more than 20 employees to operate every day in the past two years," Leung said, noting that it used the bank account of "Alliance for True Democracy" to run over HK$200 million ($25.5 million). 

Local media reported that the fund had provided legal fees for 2,221 suspects who took part in the social turmoil in 2019 in Hong Kong, which turned into a citywide rampage and rioting activities. Leung also urged the police to fully investigate the source of the fund. 

The fund's purpose was to help rioters to pay legal fees so that they would have lesser concern about legal consequences when they commit crimes against Hong Kong and cause chaos by burning, maiming, rioting, and blocking roads, Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman at Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

"It is not a simple legal aid fund but money possibly supplied by anti-Chinese forces specifically to help subversion perpetrators to advance their insidious political purpose," he said. 

The HKSAR government said on Thursday that the arrest of fund's trustees was the law enforcement in line with the evidence collected, which has nothing to do with the profession nor religious background of the suspects arrested. 

Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming, a LegCo member and former provincial secretary general of the Anglican church in Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Thursday that the arrest of Zen showed that religious communities should also abide by the law, and everyone is equal before the law. 

The US prematurely made irresponsible remarks and even called for the release of Zen when the case was still under investigation and the facts of the case were unclear, Koon said.

While Ho has a Canadian citizenship, experts considered that having a foreign citizenship is neither a defense to a criminal charge nor a shield against criminal responsibility.

Imagine if a Hong Kong person commits crime in Canada resulting in injury or harm to that country, Canada would like such person to be charged, put to trial, and punished accordingly, Ma noted. 

"Western allies' hypocrisy on this issue is appalling and their only sinister motive is to attack the rule of law in the HKSAR with a plot to undermine China," he said.