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NEW YORK (May 13, 2022) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the Hong Kong government’s arrest of pro-democracy activist, Cantopop star, and former Oslo Freedom Forum speaker, Denise Ho. Denise Ho was arrested with other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund, which provided medical assistance, financial support, and legal aid to pro-democracy protesters in 2019.

Arrested along with Denise Ho were four 612 Fund trustees and pro-democracy activists: 90-year-old former bishop Cardinal Zen, lawyer Margaret Ng, cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung, and former member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Cyd Ho.

On Wednesday May 11, the national security police arrested them as suspects of having committed the crimes of “endangering national security” and “colluding with foreign forces” — vaguely-defined charges promulgated under Hong Kong’s draconian national security law. Cardinal Zen, Margaret Ng, Hui Po-Keung, and Denise Ho were subsequently released on bail, and were forced to relinquish their travel documents. They are required to report back to the police in August 2022. If convicted under the current pending charges, the former trustees could face life imprisonment.

The arrest happened shortly after former police officer and pro-Beijing loyalist John Lee was appointed chief executive, the highest position in the Hong Kong government, as a result of a sham election on Sunday, May 8. The arrest of Denise Ho and fellow trustees marks one of the biggest crackdowns on Hong Kong’s civil society since Lee’s selection, and further signals the puppet Hong Kong government’s desire to firmly stamp out democratic values and genuine autonomy.

“The Chinese Communist Party has effectively turned the Hong Kong government into a subservient administration, deeply embracing Xi Jinping’s iron grip tactics,” said HRF Senior Strategy and Research Associate Jenny Wang. “We strongly condemn the escalating obstruction of justice in Hong Kong that has taken place in recent years.”

The implementation of the national security law in June 2020 has gravely endangered the few remaining civil liberties in Hong Kong, as any act in opposition to the government could be considered “secession, subversion, terrorism, or foreign interference” and could serve as grounds for arrest.

Denise Ho, Margaret Ng, and others affiliated with Stand News, an independent pro-democracy online publication, were previously arrested by national security police in December 2021 under allegations of publishing “seditious” and “inflammatory” materials. Denise Ho formerly served on the board of Stand News, but stepped down in November 2021. Meanwhile, the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund ceased operations in October 2021 after national security police and Chinese state-backed media requested information on its beneficiaries and donors.

“Indeed, the national security law has highlighted how ‘one country, two systems’ is a fallacy. We urge both the Chinese government and its subservient Hong Kong government to immediately drop all charges,” added Wang. “The international community must stand in solidarity with Hongkongers.”

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

Watch Denise Ho’s 2019 Oslo Freedom Forum in New York talk here.

To learn more about the backsliding of civil liberties in Hong Kong, read HRF’s policy note “Hong Kong’s National Security Law: The Nail in the Coffin for One Country, Two Systems.

Read HRF’s Urgent Appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council condemning the national security law here.

Support organizations on the frontlines of advocating for freedom in Hong Kong, such as Hong Kong Democracy Council, and Hong Kong Free Press.

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