China Defends Hong Kong Cardinal's Arrest As Western Alarm Grows


By Jerome Taylor, Su Xinqi and Florian Mueller, International Business Times 



China on Thursday defended the arrest of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal under Hong Kong's national security law, a move that triggered international outrage and deepened concerns over Beijing's crackdown on freedoms in the financial hub.


Retired cardinal Joseph Zen, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, was among a group of veteran democracy advocates arrested Wednesday for "colluding with foreign forces".


Pop singer Denise Ho, veteran barrister Margaret Ng and prominent cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung were also arrested, the latter as he attempted to fly to Europe to take up an academic post.


Cyd Ho, a democracy activist currently in jail over a previous protest conviction, was arrested on Thursday.


"The persons concerned are suspected of conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security -- an act of severe nature," Beijing's foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said.


Hong Kong's government said the religious background of those arrested was "completely irrelevant" and that "no one can enjoy a privilege above the law".


The five were detained for being trustees of a now-disbanded defence fund that helped pay legal and medical costs for those arrested during the huge and sometimes violent democracy protests three years ago.


China responded with a broad campaign to crush the movement and transform the city so that it more closely resembles the authoritarian mainland...