Five pro-democracy figures convicted of failing to register a defunct protester relief fund as a society have filed an appeal against their conviction.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, barrister Margaret Ng, ex-lawmaker Cyd Ho, scholar Hui Po-keung and singer-activist Denise Ho, who were trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, filed an appeal to the High Court on Monday.

cyd ho joseph zen margaret ng denise ho hui po-keung 612 humanitarian relief fund
(From left) Cardinal Joseph Zen, Hui Po-keung, Margaret Ng and Denise Ho, the former trustees of 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, at West Kowloon Law Courts Building on November 25, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The five were convicted of violating the Societies Ordinance in November and were fined HK$4,000 each by Principal Magistrate Ada Yim. The fund’s former secretary, Sze Ching-wee, was also found guilty and was fined HK$2,500. Sze has not appealed against his conviction.

Under the Societies Ordinance, a society must register or apply for an exemption from registration within one month of its establishment.

Yim ruled that the Societies Ordinance applied to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund even though it was disputed by the defence.

The magistrate said that the trust was not considered exempt from the ordinance as it was not a trust of public nature solely established for charity purposes.

Instead, Yim said that the agreement signed by the five trustees carried “political aims.” In addition, she ruled that the members of the fund shared mutual rights and obligations, and that the group had engaged the public and had connections with political groups.

612 Humanitarian Relief Fund cyd ho
Cyd Ho. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The fund, which folded in August last year, provided financial support for those arrested or injured during the protests and unrest in 2019, as a society.

612 Humanitarian Relief Fund announced its decision to dissolve after it learned that the company holding the fund, the Alliance for True Democracy Limited, would soon be defunct.

Zen, Denise Ho, Cyd Ho, Ng and Hui were arrested in May this year by the national security police. According to local media, the five were accused of conspiring to collude with foreign powers. No charges have been made.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.