The arrest of Cantopop star Denise Ho in a raid on journalists and personalities linked to Hong Kong media StandNews has shocked her many fans in the city and around the world.
The artist, who is also a Canadian citizen, was taken from her home in Hong Kong on Wednesday for allegedly conspiring with five other people to release seditious documents in her role as the former director of the independent news provider.
Ho’s arrest marks the first time a world-famous pop star has been detained in Hong Kong for a political crime after Beijing imposed a national security law 18 months ago in response to months of protests in democracy in 2019.
The artist had long been an outspoken public figure. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Canada, she is a heroine of the region’s LGBT community, one of the first local celebrities to speak out almost ten years ago.
She has been actively involved in the city’s pro-democracy movement, testifying on the U.S. Capitol about reports of police brutality during protests, as well as as a trustee of a now defunct humanitarian fund for demonstrators arrested or injured.
“Denise Ho was Hong Kong’s most vocal and popular artist who dares to oppose Beijing,” Sunny Cheung, one of the activists who had traveled with Ho to the United States, told the Guardian.
Ho sought to comfort his fans on Facebook after his arrest. ” I feel good. Friends who are worried about me, please don’t worry. The post drew thousands of wishes within hours.
“Hang on! One user wrote. “It’s too ridiculous! Please go! ”Wrote another.
In a creative industry where access to mainland China’s lucrative market prompted many Cantonese artists to refrain from angering Chinese sensibilities, Ho emerged in 2014 as a voice of defiance when she joined the movement. umbrellas and demanded a broader democracy with thousands of other Hong Kongers.
“When I first saw the tear gas fired at the peaceful crowd… I decided, whatever the so-called consequences, that I had to say what I thought,” she said in 2019.
The consequences for Ho’s career came long before Wednesday’s arrest. In 2014, Chinese authorities banned her from performing on the mainland. In the years that followed, brands and other celebrities shunned her, while some of her concerts in Hong Kong were canceled.
There was no immediate response from Canadian authorities, but his detention could add to tensions between the two countries. It comes just months after the release of the “two Michael”, Canadian citizens detained in China for more than 1,000 days. Critics, including the Canadian government, have called their detention “hostage diplomacy” in retaliation for the arrest of a Chinese executive accused of fraud in the United States.
Additional reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison.