Cantopop singer Denise Ho has been released on bail after being arbitrarily detained by Hong Kong police during the city government’s crackdown on a pro-democracy media outlet.
Ho, a Canadian citizen, was taken from her home in Hong Kong in the early hours of Dec. 29, according to her Facebook page. The same day, national security police raided the premises of Stand News, a local pro-democracy media outlet, and arrested six of its current and former board members for “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.” Ho is a former Stand News board member.
Ho and four other former Stand News board members were released on bail on Dec. 30.
“Thank you friends for all your kind messages, I have been released on bail and have returned home safely,” Ho wrote on Twitter.
Ho participated in the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the massive anti-Chinese Communist Party pro-democracy protests in 2019 and 2020 that were sparked by a controversial extradition bill introduced by the Hong Kong government that expands Beijing’s control over the autonomous region.
Former editor-in-chief at Stand News, Chung Pui-kuen, and Patrick Lam, who was acting editor-in-chief before resigning on Dec. 29 following his arrest, were denied bail.
Chung and Lam are scheduled to appear for a hearing on Feb. 25, 2022. If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to HK$5,000 (roughly C$810).
Chan Pui-man, Chung’s wife and a former editor at the now defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily, also remained in custody after being re-arrested on Dec. 29.
The arrests drew international criticism.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly wrote on Twitter that she is “deeply concerned” and that Canada will “always stand up to support democracy and freedom of the press.”
“Freedom of media and expression remain cornerstones of democracy and essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” she wrote. “We will continue to speak out and denounce violations of these freedoms, in partnership with our international allies.”
Joly also noted that Canadian consular officials are monitoring the situation in Hong Kong very closely and “stand ready to provide assistance on the ground.”
Irwin Cotler, Canadian human rights lawyer and former federal justice minister, told CBC News that the federal government has “specific responsibilities here, apart from the responsibilities of the community of democracies.”
“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 said.
President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen also expressed her concern for freedom of speech in the former British colony.
“The arrests of #StandNews staff and singer Denise Ho@hoccgoomusic are yet another example of the Beijing authorities’ crackdown on free speech in #Hong Kong,” Tsai wrote on Twitter.
“We in #Taiwan regret to see their detention and call on the international community to stand up for freedom and democracy in HK.”
Frank Fang contributed to this article.