30 Dec 2021, Markham, ON.
If you follow news from Hong Kong, you’ve probably already heard the news of Denise Ho’s arrest. A Hong Kong-born Canadian activist and Cantopop singer, Miss Ho was taken into custody alongside six other members of Hong Kong’s Stand News, accused of “biased, smearing and demonizing reporting.” Quite frankly, I have a hard time imagining what the People’s Republic of China considers “demonizing” at this point, as Stand News was a not-for-profit, pro-democracy publication whose only crime appears to be criticizing the HKSAR government including the so-called “smart prisons” proposed for Hong Kong, and reporting what has been going on on the ground. Now, the publication has been purged from the internet and two of its former editors are standing trial in Kowloon. This is disproportionate and absurd.
Yet another Canadian arrested on the heels of the Two Michaels
Thankfully, Miss Ho is no longer in custody and no longer faces any charges. Of course, she will have to check in with Hong Kong police in late March, because the People’s Republic of China seemingly reserves the right to change its mind on whether or not someone is guilty of something. The same cannot be said for the two editors, who were denied bail.
Denise Ho is a remarkable person, a human rights activist who championed LGBT rights and joined in the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014. Originally a singer and actress, forced by the CCP’s suppression of her jobs and performance opportunities after her pro-Hong Kong and sexual-orientation come-out, Miss Ho gave up her career by aligning herself with pro-Hong-Kong movements, remaining active in the city even as fresh waves of protests washed over it in 2019. In June 2021, due to the national security law, she ceased her directorship of Stand News. It was the publication’s criticisms of proposed “smart prisons” that got Miss Ho into hot water, leading to her arrest after she’d stepped down.
The People’s Republic of China accuses Miss Ho of being a “radical anti-government figure.” If all it takes to be anti-government is to correctly accuse them of abusing basic human rights, I suppose they’d better off arresting the whole of Canada. Miss Ho may have more claim to being an enemy of the government than either of the two Michaels, but quite frankly it’s alarming that yet another Canadian has run afoul of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for doing nothing wrong. As Senator Leo Housakos said in a statement made last Wednesday, “Canadians are not safe from the communist thugs of the CCP.”
China is doing everything it can to squash freedom of speech in Hong Kong, and then, the world
Miss Ho’s compatriots are less fortunate. Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, Stand News’s former editor-in-chief and acting chief editor respectively, have been charged of conspiring to publish “seditious” publications. Mr. Chung’s wife, Pui-man Chan, was also allegedly arrested. This is significant because Mrs. Chan was a former senior executive at Apple Daily, the first and once most remarkable pro-democracy publication that fell under the CCP’s scrutiny and was “razed to the ground” by the Hong Kong police and the national security law in June 2021. The remaining former board members of Stand News, including noted barrister Margaret Ng, Christine Fang and Chow Tat-chi, have also been released. For the most part, their legal representatives could not be reached for comment.
As a former media worker in Hong Kong, this series of events happened to the media hit me hard. I can’t help but see these attacks on the press as political tantrums. For all the fire and brimstone CCP mouthpieces spit when called upon to justify these kinds of arrests, what are they guilty of? Saying things the government doesn’t like? Suggesting that human rights are not merely human suggestions? If Stand News published an article in Canada criticizing Canadian prisons, I don’t think any of them would be arrested. As it stands, I’d like to echo MP Jenny Kwan’s sentiments. Hong Kong has become a police state, and the promised freedom of the press is clearly no longer in the PRC’s interests. Something must be done.
We must stand up and speak out against China’s human rights abuses
What can we in Canada do to protest these actions? Well, perhaps at the very least we should consider a total boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics. Currently the Canadian government is only not sending any government representatives to the Games, but athletes are still slated to attend. Even the CCP considers this to be farcical, and for once I agree with them. For the safety of our citizens, we should not be sending Canadians into the People’s Republic of China right now, given how eager the CCP is to put Canadians behind bars.
An Olympic boycott is, of course, far from sufficient. It is important that our Prime Minister and our Members of Parliament send a strong message to China that the abuse of human rights and the silencing of the press will not be tolerated. We must do more. For now, I simply hope we can support those in Hong Kong who are being silenced for speaking out.
I, Mimi Lee, urge the Canadian government to stand firm against CCP:
For Canadians’ safety, do not send athletes to the Beijing 2022 Olympics.
Condemn CCP breaching the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Declare China and Hong Kong not safe for Canadians, and urge Canadians to come home.
Secure notable Canadians’ safety in China and Hong Kong.
Cancellation of all Canadian-China tariff privileges, increase tariff for all non-essential goods from China.
Ban importation of products from Xinjiang and Uyghurs, which the CCP abuse human rights.