Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, has been explaining how he spent HK $ 20 million given to him personally by Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, after he initially refused to answer questions by journalists.
The cardinal, who according to Spero News, is on a 72-hour hunger strike in protest of Hong Kong Supreme Court decision requiring the church to implement government prescribed school reforms, has explained, after rumors of scandal went online, that he spent the sum on matters connected with, "my role as bishop and Christian, and not [on matters] related to any political purpose."
The Cardinal said the sum given to him personally in 2005, was used in funding the official and underground church in China, Chinese students abroad, hard pressed dioceses, priests and nuns, prison inmates, the poor, and for translating church documents and literature into Chinese.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun was responding to reports on Foxy, an internet-sharing engine, alleging financial misconduct on the part of the bishop emeritus. The diocese, in its reaction to the allegations said,
“There is an attempt to create the impression that Card Zen enriched himself, or that he used money for political purposes in support of the Democratic Party. The whole thing is meant to discredit the Democratic Party a few weeks before District Council elections in November.”
The Cardinal, according to Spero News, spoke on details of how he used the money:
“First, I gave scholarships to 170 students from the official and underground Church to go abroad. Then, as a Vatican adviser on China, I have often had to travel to Rome and around the world. Since I’ve never asked for any financial aid to pay for such trips, I pay my own way.Since Hong Kong is a relatively rich diocese, it is appropriate that it should help poorer ones. For this reason, when I was the city’s bishop, we helped dioceses hit by floods, tsunami, earthquakes, both in China and in other parts of the world. Then there is a long list of priests, nuns and bishops in China and elsewhere who received aid. If they come to Hong Kong, they can buy books as well as religious items and furnishings at my expenses.”
According to Cardinal Zen, he used the money in funding translation of the Compendium to the Church's social doctrine published in 2004. He also used part of the money for translation of a theology book and several official documents of the Church. The Cardinal, in his explanation of how he used the money, emphasized the money was given to him personally, and not to the diocese:
“Anyone who knows me knows that I have never used this money for personal use or for political purposes. It must be said however that this money was given to me personally without any strings attached or any quid pro quo.”
Cardinal Zen, 79, had initially refused to talk to the press, saying he had nothing to say. The "mystery of the millions," according to The Standard (Hong Kong), deepened after the Diocese of Hong Kong said it did not receive any donation from the tycoon. Vicar General Dominic Chan Chi-ming had said there were no church records of Zen receiving donations from Jimmy Lai. The Vicar General, however, said the diocese would not seek clarification from Cardinal Zen on the matter because "If anyone receives a donation on their personal behalf, it is not against the rules."
Cardinal Zen, according to Asia One, finally admitted, on Wednesday, that he had received HK $20 million from Jimmy Lai.
Jimmy Lai, according to South China Morning Post, has defended his donations to Cardinal Zen and political groups, saying they were legal and "consistent with [his] well-known support of an open and free Hong Kong society."
The media tycoon Jimmy Lai, according to reports, is a recent convert to Catholicism, and a strong supporter of the pro-democracy movement, and critic of the Chinese government.