Singer and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho arrested in Hong Kong

Cantopop star and Canadian citizen Denise Ho, who grew up in Greater Montreal, is one of at least four people arrested by Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday.

Hong Kong Watch, a UK-based human rights organization, said Ho was arrested alongside Cardinal Joseph Zen, lawyer Margaret Ng and researcher Hui Po-keung.

The organization said their arrests were apparently linked to their roles in a humanitarian aid fund providing legal aid to people who took part in 2019 pro-democracy protests, which were largely suppressed by security forces.

Dozens of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under a sweeping national security law that was introduced in Hong Kong by Beijing in 2020. Ho herself had previously been arrested and briefly detained last December.

Ho was born in Hong Kong, but grew up in Brossard, on the South Shore. After high school, she attended Cégep de Montréal before returning to Hong Kong. At a protest in Hong Kong in 2019, Ho said growing up in Montreal helped her stand up for basic rights.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, who had expressed concern after Ho’s first arrest, wrote on Wednesday that the latest wave of arrests is “deeply disturbing”.

“The continued targeting of civil society groups undermines the rights and freedoms of [Hong Kong] residents guaranteed by [Hong Kong]is the basic law,” she tweeted.

A spokesperson for the Alliance Canada Hong Kong group said the arrests signaled an escalating crackdown in Hong Kong.

“It’s not really surprising that this happened, but it’s still shocking,” Ai-Men Lau said. “In particular the arrest of a 90-year-old cardinal for his pacifist activities,” she added, referring to Cardinal Joseph Zen.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed Wednesday that it is providing consular services to Ho.

The arrests come after Beijing loyalist John Lee was elected leader of Hong Kong next Sunday after winning more than 99% of the votes cast by a largely pro-Beijing election committee.