The Vatican has been muted on Zen’s police arrest, saying it was concerned and “following the development of the situation very closely”.
Pope Francis I declined to comment on Zen’s arrest when asked about it earlier this month but said he was determined to continue pursuing a dialogue with Beijing.
Zen’s criminal prosecution comes at a sensitive time for the Vatican, which is working to renew its controversial agreement with Beijing later on this year over the appointment of bishops within China.
Zen was hugely critical, calling the deal a “sellout” of China’s underground Catholics.
“WE ABANDONED HIM”
One of the most mature Catholic clerics in order to criticise the Vatican’s response to Zen’s detain is German Primary Gerhard Mueller.
“We abandoned him, ” Mueller told the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero previously this month saying he was disappointed that a recent consistory – a collecting of cardinals in Rome – did not speak in support of Zen.
“I would not want the silence of the consistory over Bishop Zen to reveal the fact that this particular cardinal will be sacrificed on the altar associated with reason, to defend and implement the diplomatic agreement with Beijing. I foresee this particular risk and I feel pain, ” this individual added.
Zen’s group acted as trustees of a now-defunct fund that helped pay legal plus medical costs for all those arrested during large and sometimes violent democracy protests three years ago.
China responded to those protests with a sweeping attack on dissent.
A majority of the city’s most prominent democracy activists are now in jail or have fled overseas, while dozens of civil society groups have shuttered.
Some groups are actually prosecuted for funding and registration problems, even though several had functioned without occurrence for years, including the alliance that used to set up the city’s yearly Tiananmen crackdown vigils.
Hong Kong’s government says prosecutors are simply following the law.
Critics contend a form of “lawfare” continues to be launched to quiet critical groups and bog them down in expensive legal fights.
Zen’s “612 Humanitarian Alleviation Fund” is charged with not correctly registering under the Communities Ordinance, a colonial-era law from 1911.
The account disbanded after nationwide security police required it hand over operational details including details about its donors plus beneficiaries.
The particular investigation was induced when one of the defendants, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, was intercepted at Hong Kong’s airport upon May 10 as he tried to leave to take up an academic post in Europe.