(PresidentialInsider.com)- The White House has formally urged the release of Cardinal Joseph Zen and four others. They were detained in Hong Kong for allegedly conspiring with foreign forces to jeopardize China’s national security interests.
Zen is a retired archbishop residing in Hong Kong and one of Asia’s most senior Catholic clergy. He and the others were charged for assisting in paying legal and medical bills for pro-democracy protestors in 2019.
Zen, who is 90 years old, has long supported democratic issues in Hong Kong and mainland China. He has already spoken out against President Xi Jinping’s leadership in China and the alleged persecution of Roman Catholics in China.
The White House deputy press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told reporters that freedom of expression is vital to thriving and safe communities.
Jean-Pierre demanded that the Hong Kong authorities stop targeting Hong Kong’s advocates and free those who have been wrongfully imprisoned and accused, such as Cardinal Joseph Zen.
The other detainees have been named. They include activist and pop singer Denise Ho, senior barrister Margaret Ng, former lawmaker Cyd Ho, and former scholar Hui Po-keung.
According to media sources, Hui was detained at the airport Tuesday night, while Cyd Ho was already in prison for a related crime.
Zen was being held in Chai Wan police station, close to his church apartment, according to a police sergeant on the scene.
On Wednesday, the Vatican accepted Zen’s arrest and stated that it would “watch the situation’s progress with extraordinary interest.”
The arrests came three days after Hong Kong’s new chief executive, John Lee, was selected without opposition in a Beijing-controlled vetting process.
The now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund gave legal assistance to those who took part in China’s 2019 demonstrations.
Other pro-democracy activists have allegedly been detained in the aftermath under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which was enacted in 2020.