Lesbian pop star and regionally famous pro-democracy activist Denise Ho was one of seven people arrested on Wednesday morning by national security police in Hong Kong. She was released on Thursday afternoon.
All seven arrestees were linked to the pro-democracy news website Stand News and were accused of “conspiracy to publish seditious material,” a colonial-era crime punishable by two years in jail and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($640).
Ho served as a former board member for the publication, Go magazine reported. Police searched her home for two hours, taking her phones and computers as well as her identification card and passport, CNN reported. Police also searched the publication’s offices, seizing materials there too.
Police said the arrests occurred because of “seditious” articles the newspaper published between July 2020 and November 2021. Police also froze nearly 61 million Hong Kong dollars ($7.8 million) in the newspaper’s assets.
The arrests and shutdown mark China’s increasing crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, which officially operates as one of China’s administrative districts. Under Chinese pressure, Hong Kong passed a 2020 National Security Law which China claimed would help quell violent civil protests. Fellow human rights activists and international observers say the law is just a way to arrest and silence any of China’s critics.