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From left, Cardinal Joseph Zen, barrister Margaret Ng, professor Hui Po-keung and singer Denise Ho attend a press conference to announce the closure of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund in Hong Kong on Aug. 18, 2021.HK01/The Associated Press

Born in Hong Kong and raised in Montreal, Canadian Cantopop singer and activist Denise Ho sacrificed a lucrative career in mainland China to speak out for democracy in Hong Kong. The pop star became one of the city’s prominent pro-democracy figures after she wrote an anthem for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in 2014, known as the Umbrella Revolution.

Ms. Ho didn’t just sing about the Umbrella Revolution – she also put herself in the front lines and was arrested for taking part in the pro-democracy protests, which paralyzed the city for 79 days. As a result of her activism, Ms. Ho was banned by the Chinese government from performing in China and was pulled from Chinese streaming services.

Still, retaliation from the Chinese government didn’t stop her from campaigning for democracy in Hong Kong. Ms. Ho continued her activism through 2019, when Hong Kong again exploded with anti-government protests that were met by an even heavier police response than five years earlier.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Canadian singer Denise Ho among several arrested by national security police in Hong Kong

Ms. Ho took her fight for democracy to the United Nations Human Rights Council in July 2019. She was repeatedly interrupted by Chinese delegates when she accused China of abusing human rights in Hong Kong, and called on the UN council to rescind China’s membership.

Following the passage of Hong Kong’s national security law in mid-2020, many pro-democracy figures have been accused of committing the new crime of “collusion with foreign forces” – the same accusation made against Ms. Ho when she was arrested on Wednesday, along with Cardinal Joseph Zen.

One of the Catholic Church’s most senior members, Cardinal Zen is a former bishop of Hong Kong who has long been an advocate of democratic causes in Hong Kong and mainland China. He fled Shanghai for Hong Kong after the communists took over China in 1949. The 90-year-old cardinal has been critical of the Chinese government for its restrictions on religion and freedom of expression.

Cardinal Zen has spoken out against the persecution of some Roman Catholics in China and China’s growing authoritarianism under Chinese President Xi Jinping. In 2018, he publicly admonished the Vatican for “selling out” to China by forcing bishops to retire in favour of placements picked by Beijing.

With reports from Asia Correspondent James Griffiths and Reuters

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