“I’m just a Hong Kong citizen who strongly supports providing humanitarian assistance,” he told reporters after the verdict.
“Although I’m a religious figure, I hope this (case) won’t be associated with our freedom of religion. It’s not related.”
The six were charged with failing to register the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund” that helped those arrested during pro-democracy protests in 2019 to pay legal and medical fees. All pleaded not guilty.
The Vatican had expressed concern for the safety of Zen, though it stopped short of explicitly criticising authorities at the time.
On Friday, Yim ruled that the fund was a local society run like a trust fund and the committee members shared common political ideals and goals.
Prosecutor Anthony Chau told the court that requiring the fund to register did not infringe on freedom of association, adding that it had spent most of the donations of more than HK$450 million (US$57 million) it received.
“It’s the first time ever that anyone had to serve this charge under the societies ordinance for failing to register,” said Ng, the lawyer.
The group would decide take time to decide its next steps as freedom of association in Hong Kong remains “extremely important”, she added.
Zen was represented by lawyer Robert Pang, who told the court the fund should not be considered an association or society, arguing that the defendants were not members of a society and had only helped run a fund.
Even after the verdict, authorities could still take further action against Zen and the rest, as police investigate an accusation of “collusion with foreign forces”.
Source: Channel News Asia