Hong Kong court has convicted cardinal Joseph Zen and five other pro-democracy figures for failing to register a "now-defunct protester relief fund" as a society. All of them have been fined for up to HK$4,000, Hong Kong Free Press reported.
The people who have been found guilty include Zen, barrister Margaret Ng, former lawmaker Cyd Ho, scholar Hui Po-keung, singer-activist Denise Ho and Sze Ching-wee. All of them appeared at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts on Friday.
Zen, barrister Margaret Ng, former lawmaker Cyd Ho, scholar Hui Po-keung, singer-activist Denise Ho were trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund while Sze Ching-wee was the fund's secretary, as per the Hong Kong Free Press report.
Yim imposed a fine of HK$4,000 on five trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. In addition, she directed Sze Ching-wee to pay a fine of HK$2,500. Yim ruled that the Societies Ordinance applied to the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
A society needs to apply for registration or an exemption from registration within one month of its creation, according to the Societies Ordinance. In the court, Yim said that the agreement signed by the five trustees carried "political aims" and ruled that the fund members shared mutual rights and obligations, as per the news report.
According to Yim, the 612 Humanitarian Relief fund involved people and had contact with political groups. Yim ruled that all six defendants could be considered "office-bearers" of the fund which made them liable for not registering the trust as a society.
According to the magistrate, all of them were responsible for the fund's administrative and financial management. The magistrate further stated that they were aware about the working of funds than other members, according to Hong Kong Free Press.
The lawyer defending Sze told the court that he was only an "independent contractor" employed by the five trustees. However, Yim said that Sze was a "coordinator" of the fund and was involved in meetings related to decision-making.
Dismissing the magistrate's claims, Yim said that she was not convinced that Sze was a contractor and stressed that he was also an "office bearer" in the organisation. In the court hearing, the defence challenged the constitutionality of the Societies Ordinance.
Yim stressed that the right to assembly was not absolute and could be restricted for reasons, including national security, public safety, social order, and protection of others' rights or freedoms, as per the news report. "The court, therefore, came to view that the purposes of the registration system were legitimate and that the relevant requirements were reasonable," Hong Kong Free Press quoted Yim as saying.
As per the report, the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund was founded in June 2019 and provided financial assistance for those arrested or injured before its closure in August 2022. It was shut down after learning that the company which holds its assets, the Alliance for True Democracy Limited will make a similar move. (ANI)