Church leaders and U.S. officials are condemning the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun in Hong Kong by the national security police on Wednesday.
Zen, 90, was arrested, along with other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a now-defunct organization that legally and financially supported people during a 2019 pro-democracy protest.
The cardinal previously served as a bishop of Hong Kong and has been outspoken against the Chinese Communist Party. Seven decades ago, Zen moved to Hong Kong from Shanghai after the CCP took over the country.
Other individuals in Wednesday's arrest include Cantopop singer and actor Denise Ho Wan-see, ex-legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-ye and academic Hui Po-keung.
According to Hong Kong Free Press, they were accused of conspiring with foreign forces. They could face life in prison if convicted.
As reported by The Christian Post, several church leaders, U.S. lawmakers and former and current government officials denounced the arrest, calling it a violation of human rights.
"The Holy See has learnt the news of Cardinal Zen's arrest with concern and is following the development of the situation very closely," the Vatican said in a statement.
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong stated that they were "extremely concerned about the condition and safety of Cardinal Joseph Zen" and urged the Hong Kong Police and the judicial authorities to handle Cardinal Zen's case in accordance with justice."
In a joint statement, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China called the arrests a part of the "Hong Kong government's effort to dismantle the institutions safeguarding the rule of law and human rights of the Hong Kong people as it has systematically targeted civil society groups, threatening them with criminal investigation and prosecution under the pretext of national security."
"The arrests of Hui Po-keung, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Margaret Ng Ngoi-ye, Denise Ho Wan-see; and Cyd Ho Sau-lan should be condemned by all freedom-loving people, including the global businesses that have made Hong Kong home," the statement, authored by co-chairs Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA), reads.
California Pastor Samuel Rodriguez, who also serves as the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president, contended that the "breach of liberty" is "what happens when totalitarianism infects a nation."
"Leaders everywhere must condemn the actions of the CCP immediately and advocate for the release of those imprisoned," Rodriguez said in a statement. "This gross violation of human rights must serve as a wake-up call to societies and governments everywhere. We will not stand idly by as big government attempts to strip people of their God-given freedoms."
The CCP has "sunk to a new low," said Sam Brownback, the former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
"It is outrageous. China's leadership should be sanctioned immediately for their wanton disregard of the rule of law and basic civil liberties," Brownback, who is also a former senator and governor of Kansas, tweeted.
This is horrible and truly unbelievable. The #CCPChina has sunk to a new low. It is outrageous. China's leadership should be sanctioned immediately for their wanton disregard of the rule of law and basic civil liberties. @hk_watch https://t.co/Iq0g9eeWJ4— Sam Brownback (@SamuelBrownback) May 11, 2022
According to the U.S.-based group Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Zen's arrest is a "violation of basic human rights."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Darrin Klimek
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.