Popstar and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho arrested in chilling Hong Kong raid

Maggie Baska December 31, 2021
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Pro-democracy activist and singer Denise Ho was arrested as part of a police raid on figures linked to Hong Kong media outlet Stand News. (Nora Tam/South China Morning Post via Getty)

Singer and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho was arrested alongside seven people in a raid by national security police in Hong Kong.

Ho, a Cantopop singer, was arrested in a raid of reporters linked to pro-democracy online media outlet Stand News, of which she is a former board member.

She was taken from her home by police on Wednesday (29 December) morning on charges of “conspiracy to publish seditious material”, CNN reported, and was released a day later.

Ho’s assistant said police spent over two hours in the star’s home and seized her phones, computers, ID card and passport before taking her to a police station.

Reuters reported over 200 police officers also raided the Stand News offices on Wednesday and froze its assets. Shortly afterwards, the publication announced it was closing and dismissed all of its employees.

Ho made headlines after she came out as gay publicly during a Pride Parade in Hong Kong in 2012. She was the first mainstream female singer in Hong Kong to come out as part of the LGBT+ community.

Ho has also been actively involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. She testified at the US Capitol about reports of police brutality during pro-democracy protests and previously served as a trustee on a humanitarian fund for arrested or injured protestors.

Ho, who is also a Canadian citizen, was released on bail on Thursday (30 December) and confirmed on Twitter that she had “returned home safely”.

“Thank you friends for all your kind messages, I have been released on bail and have returned home safely,” she wrote.

Three other former members of the Stand News board – former democratic legislator and barrister Margaret Ng, Chow Tat-chi and Christine Fang – were also released on police bail pending further investigations.

The former board members, including Ho, have not been charged yet, but police said all four are due to report to police in late March.

The arrest of Ho and others associated with Strand News has raised further concerns about diminishing press freedoms following the imposition of a sweeping National Security Law on Hong Kong in 2020.

​​The controversial law was imposed by the Chinese government. It criminalises sedition (inciting rebellion against the state), secession and subversion of the state as well as collusion with foreign powers.

The maximum punishment is life imprisonment, and companies can face hefty fines if convicted under the law.

Denise Ho speaks before the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China in 2019
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and Cantopop singer Denise Ho testifies during a hearing before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China on 17 September 2019. (Getty/Alex Wong)

Denise Ho first emerged as a pro-democratic voice when she joined the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Thousands of people took to the streets and demanded the right for Hong Kong to pick its leaders free from the influence of the Chinese government. The movement gained its iconic moniker because protestors used umbrellas to protect themselves from the tear gas used by police.

“When I first saw the teargas fired into the peaceful crowds … I decided, regardless of all the so-called consequences, that I had to speak my mind,” she said in 2019.

Denise Ho has faced severe consequences as a result of her pro-democracy activism. Chinese authorities banned her from performing on the mainland, some of her concerts in Hong Kong have been cancelled and brands and celebrities have disassociated from her.

More: Hong Kong

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