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Cardinal Zen trial adjourned to October

A magistrate ruled there was sufficient evidence to try the 90-year-old in connection with a relief fund for pro-democracy protesters.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun. Rock Li via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The criminal trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun will resume in October after a Hong Kong magistrate ruled that there was sufficient evidence to try the 90-year-old in connection with a relief fund for pro-democracy protesters.

Principal Magistrate Ada Yim issued the ruling on Sept. 27, the second day of hearings at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts.

Zen and five other trustees of the now closed 612 Humanitarian Fund are accused of failing to properly register the organization, which provided financial and legal aid to people arrested during mass demonstrations in 2019.

The Hong Kong Free Press reported that five prosecution witnesses, including four police officers, testified in court on Tuesday. After cross-examining the witnesses, Yim declared there was enough evidence to make a prima facie case against the six defendants.

Radio Free Asia said that while the prosecution was able to argue that the trustees should have registered the fund within a month of its creation, defense questions “were overruled as irrelevant.”

The news service added that the trial was adjourned until Oct. 26 before the defense could call witnesses or make its case.

The defense is preparing to present a series of legal arguments to the court, including regarding the interpretation of Hong Kong’s Societies Ordinance, which sets out registration conditions for new societies.

Yim reportedly asked for submissions on how societies should be defined according to the ordinance, which was enacted in 1911 but has undergone many revisions.

She also called for arguments about the legal definition of office-bearers of a society and the spirit of the Societies Ordinance, the Hong Kong Free Press said.

Cardinal Zen is one of the most prominent pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, a former British colony with a population of 7.5 million people that became a special administrative region of China in 1997.

The Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong was arrested in May and held at first on national security grounds, including alleged collusion with foreign agents.

He now faces the lesser charge of allegedly failing to register the fund through the appropriate channels. If convicted, he will have to pay a fine of up to 10,000 Hong Kong dollars ($1,273) but is expected to be spared jail.

He is standing trial alongside other trustees of the now closed fund, including the barrister Margaret Ng, singer Denise Ho, former lawmaker Cyd Ho, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, and activist Sze Ching-wee. All six defendants pleaded not guilty to the offenses in May.

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