Cardinal Zen's arrest condemned in UK Parliament

Cardinal Zen, 90, was arrested and charged with "collusion with foreign forces".Christian Today

UK government ministers have condemned the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen and other pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong.

Minister of State for Europe and North America, James Cleverly, called their arrests on Wednesday "unacceptable".

"Freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest, which are protected in both the joint declaration and the basic law, are fundamental to Hong Kong's way of life," he said, adding that the UK "will continue to speak out when China breaches its legally binding agreements and when it breaks its promises to the people of Hong Kong". 

Cardinal Zen, 90, was arrested and charged with "collusion with foreign forces". He was later released on bail. 

Speaking in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun, said it was "an outrage" that Cardinal Zen had been arrested over his ties to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The charity helped to cover legal and medical expenses for members of the pro-democracy movement before it ceased operations in 2021.

The bishop pressed Lord Goldsmith "to state in his own words, as clearly as possible, that this is utterly unacceptable and further undermines the rule of law in Hong Kong", and asked the government minister to state what interventions were being made to protect religious freedom or belief in the territory. 

In response, Lord Goldsmith said that he "strongly" echoed the bishop's comments. 

"What has happened to Cardinal Zen is truly appalling on every conceivable level," he said.

"It fundamentally undermines every aspect of the agreement we reached with China at the handover and any sense of plurality or freedom of religion in Hong Kong.

"We are committed to defending freedom of religion for all and promoting respect between different religious and non-religious communities.

"Freedom of expression, religion or belief is explicitly included in the joint declaration, which China agreed to uphold.

"China is in clear breach of that declaration. We have seen its use of the national security law to curtail freedoms and suppress any dissent."