Cantopop singer and activist Denise Ho has been released on bail after being arrested in her home and accused of sedition by authorities in Hong Kong.
The face of a movement: On Wednesday, Ho and at least five other people connected to the media platform Stand News were apprehended and accused of “conspiracy to publish seditious material” by Hong Kong’s national security police, reported CNN.
- Ho, a Hong Kong-born Canadian citizen, was a former Stand News board member while the others arrested were current and former board members and editors of the news outlet.
- She rose in popularity as a musician in the early 2000s before finding success as an actor later on.
- In 2012, Ho came out as gay and developed an interest in political issues. Her participation in pro-democracy advocacy began in 2014 during the growth of the student-led Umbrella Movement.
- She would later join rallies and protests in the streets of Hong Kong and become a global voice for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
- In July 2019, she notably spoke to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to seek support and protection for Hong Kong’s residents. She also requested that China be removed from the council.
- Ho’s pro-democracy stance and activities have led to her being blacklisted in China and heavily criticized by state-run Chinese media.
- Upon Ho’s arrest, police officers confiscated numerous items at her home, including her identification card, passport, phones and computers.
News outlet shuts down: The arrests, which came with an office raid involving some 200 officers, effectively shut down the operations of Stand News, a nonprofit online news outlet that espouses a pro-democracy stance, according to CNN Business.
- In a press statement, National Security Department Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah linked the arrests to Stand News articles published between July 2020 and Nov. 2021.
- According to Hong Kong Free Press, among those arrested include Stand News deputy assignment editor and head of the Hong Kong Journalists Association Ronson Chan, acting chief editor Patrick Lam and former democratic legislator Margaret Ng.
- Authorities reportedly took journalistic materials from the news outlet’s offices and also froze around 61 million Hong Kong dollars’ (approximately $7.8 million) worth of the company’s assets.
- The authorities’ actions against Ho and the Stand News editors and board members were made possible under the National Security Law imposed in 2020, which “[criminalizes] acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security — with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for all four.”
Taking a stand: Ho was released on bail after her 36-hour detainment caught the attention of human rights activists and governments overseas.
- Irwin Cotler, a human rights lawyer and former federal justice minister, called on Canada to take action.
- “What we’re seeing is a frontal assault not only on media freedom, not only on the safety and security of journalists, not only on the democracy movement — but on democracy itself in Hong Kong,” he was quoted by the CBC as saying.
- “The Canadian government has specific responsibilities here, apart from the responsibilities of the community of democracies.”
- Ho is still under investigation, but is not currently facing charges. She is set to report to police in March 2022, authorities said, according to Global News.