Canada’s foreign affairs minister says her government is “deeply concerned” by the arrest of a Canadian citizen and her media colleagues in Hong Kong, while parliamentarians in Canada are asking for swift action to ensure her release.
Denise Ho, a popular singer and prominent pro-democracy activist, was taken from her residence by the Hong Kong national security police at around 6 a.m. local time on Dec. 29, according to her Facebook page.
Early Wednesday, over 200 police officers raided the offices of Hong Kong pro-democracy media outlet Stand News—where Ho was once a board member—and arrested several other directors and journalists for “conspiracy to publish seditious materials.”
The arrests were made on the basis of the city’s draconian national security law, according to a news release from the Hong Kong government. However, the conspiracy charge was not listed as a crime under the Beijing-backed legislation.
Ho later wrote on Facebook that she “feels ok,” and asked her friends and supporters not to worry.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said that Canadian officials “are engaged and stand ready to provide assistance on the ground.”
“We are monitoring the situation very closely,” she said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned by the arrests in Hong Kong of current and former board and staff members from Stand News, including Canadian citizen and activist Denise Ho.”
Conservative MP Michael Chong, his party’s foreign affairs critic, said Ho’s arrest violates the 1984 Sino-British treaty which requires autonomy for Hong Kong.
“We can’t continue to turn a blind eye to Beijing’s egregious violations of international law,” he said on Twitter.
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis criticized China’s arrest of Ho, and called for a quick response from the federal government.
“The arbitrary detention of our citizens has not stopped. This arrest requires a swift and emphatic response,” Genuis wrote on Twitter.
Hong Kong police have arrested Denise Ho (@hoccgoomusic), a popular pro-democracy singer and a Canadian citizen. The arbitrary detention of our citizens has not stopped. This arrest requires a swift and emphatic response @JustinTrudeau @melaniejoly. #cdnpoli #StandWithHongKong
— Garnett Genuis (@GarnettGenuis) December 29, 2021
A number of current and former Canadian parliamentarians have also voiced concerns about Ho’s arrest and called for her release.
Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos wrote to Global Affairs Canada, asking what the federal government is doing to assist “the latest Canadian citizen kidnapped by the communist regime of China.”
“It has been brought to my attention that, in recent days, another Canadian citizen has been arbitrarily detained by authorities of the communist regime of China,” Housakos said on social media.
“While this assault on journalistic freedom is outrageous and must be unequivocally condemned, my immediate concern in writing you is the safety of one of our citizens.”
Please see below: I’ve written to @GAC_Corporate to enquire on what’s being done to assist the latest Canadian citizen kidnapped by the communist regime of China, @hoccgoomusic. #StandWithHongKong pic.twitter.com/RtbSHEUm1H
— Senator Leo Housakos (@SenatorHousakos) December 29, 2021
Former Conservative MP Kenney Chiu voiced concerns for the more than 300,000 Canadian citizens currently living in Hong Kong, while lamenting the city’s crumbling democracy.
“If anyone still argues that Hong Kong has not been dragged to the bottom of authoritarian dictatorship pit, the arrest of Quebecer Denise Ho … is the proof,” Chiu wrote on Twitter.
If anyone still argues that #HongKong has not been dragged to the bottom of authoritarian dictatorship pit, the arrest of Quebecer Denise Ho + this 👇 is the proof. Their crime? "Seditious publications" offences.
How's that going to impact lives of the 300,000+ Canadians in HK? https://t.co/jRqfqV5Ovx
— Kenny Chiu (@RmdKenny) December 29, 2021
In July 2019, Ho testified at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that, with the introduction of a controversial extradition bill, communist China had reneged on the international treaty it signed when taking back control of Hong Kong in 1997. In the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the Chinese regime committed to giving the former British colony relative autonomy.
In September 2019, Ho and her fellow pro-democracy activists also testified at a U.S. Congressional hearing, calling for international support for the Hongkongers who participated in the massive pro-democracy protests sparked by the legislation.
In the wake of the protests, the highest Chinese legislature enacted the Hong Kong national security law in June 2020, which drew widespread criticism as it allows Beijing to bypass the city’s legislature, while criminalizing open speech and even verbal promotion for Hong Kong’s independence from China.
Frank Fang contributed to this article.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to add a statement by the Canadian foreign affairs minister.