The arrests could signal a new wave of detentions under the national security law since John Lee was elected the new chief executive of Hong Kong. He has emphasized that maintaining stability and safeguarding national security will be one of his main goals.
Zen, the renowned lawyer Margaret Ng and the academic Hui Po-keung were arrested under the law for allegedly colluding with foreign forces by helping out as trustees for the now-disbanded 612 humanitarian relief fund, according to local media reports.
Lawyers familiar with the case confirmed the arrests. The three were trustees of the fund, which provided financial assistance to those arrested in the 2019 pro-democracy protests and paid their legal fees. The fund disbanded in September after the national security police issued a statement saying it would investigate whether the entity had violated the security law.
The lawyers spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Zen has been an advocate of pro-democracy causes in Hong Kong and a critic of the Vatican for its silence on Hong Kong and the increased repression of churches on the mainland. In 2020, Zen tried to meet Pope Francis during a visit to the Vatican, to persuade him to appoint a new bishop for Hong Kong who would be “trusted by people” and could stand firm against Beijing’s encroaching grip in the region, but did not manage to meet him.
In January, the pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao slammed Zen, accusing him of “exploiting his role as a cleric” and saying he “meddled with Hong Kong affairs.” Zen had continued to attend court trials and visit jailed Catholic activists, including Jimmy Lai, the founder of the now-closed pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
The popular local singer Denise Ho was also arrested, according to local media reports.