According to local media reports, Hong Kong's national security police arrested 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia's most senior and outspoken Catholic clerics, along with three others who helped run a now-disbanded humanitarian charity for protesters.
Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, singer and actor Denise Ho, the lawyer Margaret Ng and scholar Hui Po-keung were detained by the national security police in Hong Kong, reports said. The arrests were related to their role as trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided legal aid and other financial help to people who took part in the 2019 pro-democracy protests that were quashed by security forces.
Hui was arrested at the airport as he was about to board a flight to Germany on Tuesday, local media reported. Another trustee, Cyd Ho, is already in jail for her alleged involvement in illegal assemblies.
The police department of the city said last year it was investigating the charity for suspected violations of the national security law. The fund was scrapped after the disbandment of a company that had helped receive donations through a bank account.
Hui, a adjunct associate professor of cultural studies at Lingnan University, had once taught the exiled political activist Nathan Law. If you want to punish someone, you can always find an excuse, Law, who now lives in Britain, wrote on his Facebook page in response to Hui's arrest.
Cardinal Zen wrote a personal appeal to the Vatican in a letter in 2020, urging Pope Francis to leave politics out of the selection of Catholic bishops in the Chinese territory. He did not manage to meet the pope because the Holy See was engaged in discussions with Beijing on the renewal of a power-sharing agreement on the ordination of bishops in the Chinese mainland, according to local media.
This week's arrests were the latest move by the authorities in enforcing the controversial national security law that was imposed on the city in June 2020. The legislation bars secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces. They came less than a week after the incoming chief executive, John Lee, was selected by a small number of elite voters on Sunday.
The arrests have drawn condemnation from activists and politicians.