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Hong Kong: Arrests of activists, including 90-year-old cardinal, a ‘shocking escalation’ of repression

Responding to the arrests under Hong Kong’s national security law of four trustees of the defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Erwin van der Borght said:

“Even by Hong Kong’s recent standards of worsening repression, these arrests represent a shocking escalation. Some of the city’s most respected pro-democracy figures, whose activism has always been entirely peaceful, are now potentially facing years in jail. There could be few more poignant examples of the utter disintegration of human rights in Hong Kong.

“The targeting of these four activists, among them a 90-year-old cardinal, for enabling legal and humanitarian support for protesters lays bare the Hong Kong government’s callous disregard for the basic rights of its citizens.

“By attempting to criminalize the provision of legal, economic and medical aid to those in need, the authorities are undermining the rights to fair trial and other human rights of all people in Hong Kong.

“The trustees’ so-called crime of ‘collusion with foreign forces’ once again highlights how the vagueness of Hong Kong’s national security law can be weaponised to make politically motivated, or simply malicious, arrests.

“The Hong Kong government must stop pursuing criminal charges against members of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund and others who are being targeted simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly.”

Background

Cardinal Joseph Zen (90), barrister Margaret Ng (74) and singer Denise Ho (45) were arrested on Wednesday, accused of “collusion with foreign forces” under Hong Kong’s national security law. Scholar Hui Po-keung was arrested at Hong Kong airport on Tuesday while attempting to leave Hong Kong, while a fifth trustee, Cyd Ho (67), is already detained for other offences. All except Ho were released on bail on Wednesday.

The five were trustees for the defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which provided financial support for legal assistance to people prosecuted for their participation in the 2019 mass protests.

The fund ceased activities in September 2021 after it became known that it was subject of an investigation by the Hong Kong police’s National Security Department

The fund’s name “612” stems from the date 12 June 2019, when the police used unnecessary and excessive force against largely peaceful protesters who demonstrated against the later-retracted extradition bill.