Cardinal Joseph Zen has filed an appeal before Hong Kong’s High Court this week following his conviction last month for failing to register a fund that helped pay for the legal fees and medical treatments of pro-democracy protesters.
The Hong Kong Free Press reported on Wednesday, December 14, that the cardinal filed an appeal of the verdict together with four other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund who were fined about US$500 (HK$4,000) each.
Cardinal Zen’s trial from September to November focused on whether it was necessary for the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund trustees to apply for local society registration between 2019 and 2021.
Magistrate Ada Yim ruled on November 25 that the fund was a “local society” and was subject to its rules. In her decision, the judge said the fund “had political objectives and thus it was not established solely for charitable purposes.”
Following the ruling, Margaret Ng, a lawyer and fund trustee who was convicted with Cardinal Zen, noted that it was the first time that anyone had been convicted under Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance for failing to register a society. She said the case is important for “freedom of association in Hong Kong.”
With Cardinal Zen and Ng, singer-activist Denise Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-Keung, and ex-legislator Cyd Ho have also appealed the conviction.
Sze Ching-wee, former secretary of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, has not filed for an appeal. Sze was arrested earlier in November under Hong Kong’s national security law. He has been released on bail and is required to report to the police in February.
Days before Cardinal Zen filed for an appeal, a Hong Kong court sentenced Jimmy Lai, a Catholic pro-democracy advocate and former publisher of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily to an additional five years and nine months in jail for breaching the lease on one of his newspaper’s offices.
Lai, who has been jailed since December 2020 for his involvement in pro-democracy protests, also faces the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison under national security charges.
On December 13, a Hong Kong court delayed Lai’s national security trial, initially scheduled for this month, until September 2023.