Out pop star and pro-Democracy activist Denise Ho has been arrested in Hong Kong, along with five others, in an early-morning operation conducted by local police.
The arrests were all connected to Stand News, an online media organization. Those detained stand accused by police of “conspiracy to publish seditious material,” CNN and other media outlets report, which is punishable with up to two years in prison.
Ho, a former board member for Stand News, was arrested at her home, which police then searched. According to the Hollywood Reporter, local media have identified some of the others arrested as Stand News editor Ronson Chan, acting chief editor Patrick Lam, and board member Margaret Ng. The Stand News offices were also searched.
Variety reports that Ho has confirmed her arrest on Facebook, where she posted that she had been taken “to the Western Police Station.”
In a statement made following the arrests, the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) said that it “is deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the offices of news organizations containing large quantities of journalistic materials within a year,” adding, “HKJA urges the government to protect press freedom in accordance with the Basic Law” of Hong Kong.
The arrests come at a time when Chinese authorities are cracking down on pro-democracy supporters in the wake of the 2019 pro-democracy protests that broke out across the semi-autonomous region. Pro-democracy supporters and members of the press have accused the Chinese government of using these protests to exert tighter control over Hong Kong, including imposing strict limits on freedom of the press.
In June, authorities raided the offices of the now defunct pro-democracy publication, Apple Daily, and arrested its founder, Jimmy Lai, along with other staff and reporters. Lai and the others were originally charged with violating a national security law which went into effect last June, and which opponents say unduly limits the press.
Yesterday, Lai was also charged with “seditious publication,” Reuters reports.
Ho, who came out in 2012, has been part of the pro-democracy movement since 2014, when the Umbrella Movement began pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Since then, she has used her platform as a singer-turned-actress-turned activist to speak out for democratic freedoms, and to encourage international support for the democratic movement in Hong Kong.
A second post this morning on Ho’s Facebook page read simply, “I’m in a good mood, please don’t worry about my friends.” It was accompanied by a prayer hand emoji.