Hong Kong national security police have arrested prominent barrister Margaret Ng and Cardinal Joseph Zen, HKFP has learned. Singer-activist Denise Ho has also been arrested, local media report.

They helped run the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which aided thousands of protesters during the 2019 unrest by providing legal assistance, funds for psychological counselling and medical treatment and emergency relief.

Margaret Ng. Photo: Dan Garrett/HKFP.

Legal sources told HKFP on Wednesday that Ng and 90-year-old Zen were arrested a day after cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport.

National security police confirmed later that night that they had arrested four people – two males and two females – aged between 45 and 90, for alleged conspiracy to collude with foreign powers.

Cardinal Zen. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Last September, the police cited potential national security violations and served a court order to the fund, requesting information on its operations and financial transactions. Local media reported at the time that the documents included bank account details, donor information and details of the fund recipients.

The fund announced it would cease operations by October 31 last year, after the the directors of the fund’s holding company – the Alliance for True Democracy Limited – said they would soon disband.

Zen was released on bail from Chai Wan Police Station at around 11 p.m. on Wednesday. He did not speak. Using a walking stick and holding a thermal bottle in his hand, Zen then entered a private car parked outside the police station. The 90-year-old was accompanied by five people when he left.

Cardinal Joseph Zen leaving Chai Wan Police Station on May 11, 2022 at around 11 p.m. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Vatican said they were “following the development of the situation with extreme attention,” the Catholic News Agency reported.

‘Shocking new low’

Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch said that the arrests were shocking: “Arresting a 90-year-old cardinal for his peaceful activities has to be a shocking new low for Hong Kong, illustrating the city’s free fall in human rights in the past two years. Human Rights Watch calls on the Hong Kong government to immediately release the five and drop all charges against them. The arrests, which comes days after the Chinese government’s anointment of former security chief John Lee as the city’s chief executive, is an ominous sign that its crackdown on Hong Kong is only going to escalate.”

HKFP has reached out to the police for confirmation and comment.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.