Cardinal Zen Appears in Court in Hong Kong, Enters Plea of Not Guilty Alongside Co-accused

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun departs the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, Nov. 18, 2014. Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

Cardinal Joseph Zen appeared in court in Hong Kong on Tuesday, a date which is the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

The 90-year-old former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong was charged in court on May 24 with four other prominent democracy advocates who were all trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pro-democracy protesters to pay their legal fees.

All five entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of failing to register the humanitarian fund with the police, according to AFP.

For a first conviction, this charge can reportedly incur a fine of up to $1,274, but likely will not fall under Hong Kong’s national security law.

The date set for Cardinal Zen’s trial is Sept. 19.


Father Joseph Chan, Hong Kong’s vicar general was present in the courtroom, but the cleric told AFP that he was not there as a representative of the diocese.

Zen offered a Mass to pray for China on the night of May 24, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians.

Cardinal Zen offered Mass on May 24, 2022 after appearing in court in Hong Kong. Screenshot from the livestream of the Mass on the cardinal's Facebook page.
Cardinal Zen offered Mass on May 24, 2022 after appearing in court in Hong Kong. Screenshot from the livestream of the Mass on the cardinal's Facebook page.

Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed the Marian feast as the annual World Day of Prayer for the Church in China in 2007.

Zen was arrested by the authorities in Hong Kong on May 11 and was released on bail later on the same day.

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Diplomats from Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, and other European countries were in the courtroom to attend Zen’s hearing.

The cardinal’s arrest earlier this month sparked reactions around the world. A Vatican spokesman said that the Holy See “is following the development … with extreme attention.”

White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called on Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to “cease targeting Hong Kong’s advocates and to immediately release those who have been unjustly detained and charged, like the Cardinal Joseph Zen … and others arrested today.”

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.”

Pope Francis said in his Regina Coeli address on May 22 that he is praying for the Church in China and “attentively and actively following the often complex life and situations of the faithful and pastors” there.


Without specifically mentioning Zen by name, the pope called on people to pray for Catholics in China “so that the Church in China, in freedom and tranquility, might live in effective communion with the universal Church, and might exercise its mission of proclaiming the Gospel to everyone.”

Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.