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White House calls for release of cardinal arrested in Hong Kong

The White House is calling on China to "immediately release" Cardinal Joseph Zen and others who were arrested by Hong Kong authorities Wednesday, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a press briefing.

Why it matters: Zen and the other individuals arrested were trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a now-defunct fund that helped pay legal and medical fees for demonstrators arrested in the city's pro-democracy protests in 2019, AP reported.


  • Their arrests come after Hong Kong police began investigating the fund last year for alleged violations of China's national security law, which has been used to crack down on Hong Kong's protesters and free press.

The big picture: Zen is among the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia and a longtime advocate for democratic causes in Hong Kong, as well as a fierce critic of President Xi Jinping's authoritarianism, per Reuters.

  • The others were lawyer Margaret Ng, singer and activist Denise Ho and scholar Hui Po-keung, per Reuters.
  • “Today’s arrests signal beyond a doubt that Beijing intends to intensify its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” Benedict Rogers, chief executive of human rights group Hong Kong Watch, said in a statement.

What they're saying: “We call on PRC and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s advocates and to immediately release those who have been unjustly detained and charged, like the Cardinal Joseph Zen and others arrested today,” Jean-Pierre said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

  • Freedom of expression is "critical to prosperous and secure societies," she added.
  • “The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the development of the situation with extreme attention," Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said in a press release.
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Dive Deeper:
Hong Kong police bail Catholic cardinal arrested on national security charge
Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, and three others who helped run a now-disbanded…
A Catholic cardinal and others are arrested on Hong Kong security law
The White House and U.S. politicians join others around the world in calling for the release of a retired archbishop,…
Cardinal, pop star bailed in latest Hong Kong security arrests
Hong Kong (AFP) - A Catholic cardinal critical of Beijing was released on bail by Hong Kong authorities, local media…
Hong Kong: Vatican ‘concerned’ over arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen
Prominent Catholic cleric, 90, detained with three others linked to disbanded charity for protesters
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Arrested Hong Kong cardinal a fiery critic of Beijing
The 90-year-old retired Hong Kong archbishop who was arrested by Hong Kong police on national security charges has long been…
Cardinal's arrest deepens alarm over Hong Kong crackdown
Hong Kong (AFP) - The arrest of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal under Hong Kong's national security law has triggered international…
Get all your news in one place