gathered at Admiralty on June 12th, 2019
Yesterday saw the trial of 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, singer-actress Denise Ho, veteran lawyer Margaret Ng and other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund which provided legal and financial assistance to people prosecuted for their part in the 2019 extradition bill/pro-democracy protests finally begin. (It was originally scheduled to do so last week but the presiding judge, Principal Magistrate Ada Yim, contracted Covid; so it could not take place until she had recovered from her illness.)
The fund's trustees stand accused of failing to properly register it as a society and, if convicted, face a fine of up to HK$10,000. The charge, and punishment for the crime if the accused are found guilty, are obviously less serious than what the six veteran human rights activists were originally arrested for allegedly doing: i.e., breaking the national security law, a charge which could result in possible life imprisonment.
But one can't help but feel that if Cardinal Zen and Co are found guilty of this "lesser offence", the authorities will feel emboldened to go after them further and accuse plus charge them of more serious crimes. So it is sincerely hoped that that which is an act of "lawfare" all the same will be nipped at the bud. And this especially since it looks like Pope Benedict has decided to betray Cardinal Zen -- or, at the very least, not lend the nonagenarian Prince of the Church much support at all.
A note: the waging of "lawfare" has been seen as an effective way to "silence critical groups and bog them down in expensive legal fights." And for the record: The 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund was disbanded after national security police demanded it hand over operational details including information about its donors and beneficiaries.
Yesterday also saw "lawfare" being waged against a less internationally well known -- but locally well supported, all the same -- organisation known for providing financial aid to Hong Kong protesters during the 2019 protests and unrest. "After learning that two of the four people linked to Spark Alliance and arrested in 2019 on suspicion of money-laundering had left Hong Kong, the police said they applied to the court to order the confiscation of HK$70 million." And yesterday, Hong Kong’s High Court granted a confiscation order to allow the authorities to do that.
As per a Hong Kong Free Press report on the matter: "After the arrests in connection with Spark Alliance, the platform accused the police of attempting “to smear Spark Alliance and other support channels.”" Meanwhile, "The Hong Kong government is planning to implement legislation that regulates online crowdfunding to prevent activities “endangering national security.” A top official told the city’s legislature in May that public consultation on the matter was expected to begin in the last quarter of this year."
In other words: not content with going after people, the authorities are also now going after the money. And what's next after it? Maybe those who donated to the funds? In view of how much (we're talking many millions of dollars) was separately raised by each of these funds, we must surely be talking of tens, even hundreds, of thousands of individuals -- hardly the "extremely small minority of people" that Carrie Lam said would be targeted by the enactors of the national security law (unless she meant "extremely small minority of people" compared to the population of China which numbers 1.4 billion; something that, sadly, is entirely possible)!