(New York, NY) — Earlier today, Hong Kong’s National Police arrested singer and pro-democracy activist Denise Ho at her home on suspicion of violating the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance by allegedly conspiring to release seditious publications. Ho, the famous cantopop popstar and former board member of the online media organization Stand News, was among six individuals arrested by the National Police in an early morning operation targeting current and former staff members of Stand News. 

“By invoking an archaic colonial legislation to arrest artists, journalists, and activists like Denise Ho, Hong Kong authorities are sending a clear message that freedom of speech and expression in the city is subject to a political litmus test, and that international safeguards for human rights and free expression no longer apply,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “With these high-profile arrests, Hong Kong authorities are using the law as a weapon of censorship and forced silencing. We are deeply concerned by this state of affairs in Hong Kong and call for the immediate release of Denise Ho and others arrested in connection with these unjustified charges.”

As an award-winning Hong Kong-based artist and activist with studio albums and film credits to her name, Ho has advocated for LGBTQ+ rights globally and has been a visible figure in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Ho’s advocacy includes testimony before both the UN Human Rights Council and the United States government in 2019, where she spoke in favor of the pro-democracy movement and against a proposed extradition bill between Hong Kong and mainland China.

In addition to the arrests, nearly 200 national security police raided the Stand News offices, seizing journalistic materials. Numerous international observers and experts have concluded that freedom of press and related freedoms have been deeply besieged in Hong Kong since the 2020 passage of the city’s repressive National Security Law.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. ARC recently released A Safety Guide for Artists, which offers practical tools to help artists understand, navigate, and overcome risk as well as a limited series podcast “Creating Artistic Resilience” featuring interviews with artist activists from Asia including an episode with exiled Hong Kong interdisciplinary artist Kacey Wong. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.