The Vatican has yet to comment.

The 90-year-old bishop and courageous critic of China’s Communist Party was found guilty Friday on a charge relating to his role in a relief fund for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Cardinal Joseph Zen and five others were found guilty of failing to register the now-defunct “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.”


Retired bishop and longtime Hong Kong democracy advocate Cardinal Joseph Zen was convicted of failing to register a fund providing aid to antigovernment protesters, the latest court verdict in a continuing crackdown on dissent in the city.

The 90-year-old cardinal, along with other prominent activists including local pop singer Denise Ho and veteran barrister Margaret Ng, failed to file paperwork for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a court ruled Friday. The now-defunct fund offered financial and legal assistance to people arrested during the protests that convulsed the city from mid-2019 until China imposed a sweeping national-security law on the semiautonomous territory in the summer of 2020.

Five defendants who were trustees of the fund were each fined about $512; the sixth, described to the court as a secretary, was fined $320, with no jail time. The offense carries a maximum fine of less than $1,300 on a first conviction—a minor penalty compared with those imposed in other protest-related prosecutions…

Cardinal Zen said he hoped the case wouldn’t become entangled with the question of religious freedom, saying the two aren’t related.

“I haven’t seen religious freedom being harmed in Hong Kong, so please don’t overly emphasize my status as a religious figure. I am a Hong Kong citizen in favor of humanitarian aid,” he told reporters after the verdict. “And of course I hope we can continue to enjoy religious freedom in Hong Kong just as we have before.”

No jail time is good. That’s the deal…for now.