Handing down the verdict, Principal Magistrate Ada Yim ruled that the fund is considered an organization that is obliged to register as it was not purely for charity purposes.
The judgement holds significance as the first time that residents had to face a charge under the ordinance for failing to register, Ng told reporters after the hearing.
“The effect to other people, to the many, many citizens who are associated together to do one thing or another, and what will happen to them, is very important," the veteran lawyer said. “It is also extremely important about the freedom of association in Hong Kong under Societies Ordinance.”
But Zen said his case should not be linked with the city's religious freedoms. “I haven't seen any erosion of religious freedoms in Hong Kong," he said.
The 2019 protests were sparked by a since-withdrawn bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics worried the suspects would disappear into China’s opaque and frequently abusive legal system. Opposition morphed into months of violent unrest in the city.
The National Security Law has crippled Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement since its enactment in 2020, with many activists being arrested or jailed in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China's rule in 1997.
The impact of the law has also damaged faith in the future of the international financial hub, with a growing number of young professionals responding to the shrinking freedoms by emigrating overseas.