Cardinal Zen takes fast in his stride

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 October, 2011, 12:00am


Despite the twin pressures of fasting and coming under the media spotlight, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun continued to bear up well as he camped in protest outside the Salesian Community House in Chai Wan yesterday.

Zen, 79, started a three-day hunger strike on Wednesday in protest against a court ruling that weakened the Catholic diocese's control over its schools. At the same time, he has faced a media frenzy over the HK$20 million in donations he received from Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying.

Zen earlier confirmed that he had received the donations from Lai, after documents leaked on the internet revealed the size of the gifts. The documents also showed Lai donated millions to the opposition Civic Party and Democratic Party. Next Media information technology official Ivan Ho confirmed yesterday that the company was conducting an internal investigation to find out how the documents were leaked.

The investigation would trace computer logs to see how the files were taken. Next Media had not filed a report with the police as of last night, a police spokeswoman said.

Zen said yesterday: 'Until now everything is all right. I feel comfortable and have nothing to complain about.'

Speaking in front of supporters who packed the entrance to Braga House, he reiterated that he had to protest against the court ruling, which he said took away something the city should have treasured.

The religious leader, who suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes, also said that his health indicators remained normal. 'But the second half of the fast will be much harder,' he said.

Zen said doctors would continue to monitor his condition until his fast ended tomorrow.

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, who arrived during a press conference, praised Zen for supporting the underground church on the mainland with his private donations.

'We should feel proud about it, that the money was spent to help those who are most in need,' he said. There was no need for Zen to give a full accounting of how the money was spent, Ho said.

'If the donor believes that he will do what he should with the money - and he does it - I can't see why he should report it. This is not something that is illegal,' he said.

Tam Yiu-chung, the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, earlier said that Zen's financial support for the underground church had eroded the 'one country, two systems' principle.

Ho said it was hard to find entrepreneurs in Hong Kong who donated large amounts of money for good causes. 'Hong Kong business is very disappointing. They have no sense of justice and they have no long-term vision,' he said.

Lai's donations made up 64 per cent and 22 per cent of the donations made to the Civic and Democratic parties for the 2009-10 financial year, according to financial statements from the two parties and the leaked documents.

The two parties have refused to confirm the documents, which indicated the Democratic Party received HK$13.69 million from 2006 to last year, and the Civic Party HK$14.56 million in the same period.