Ho, a pop star and activist who serves as a board member of Stand News, was released on bail pending further investigation, Reuters and The Associated Press report. Ho is not currently facing any charges, but is due to report to police in late March, authorities said.
Ho confirmed her release on Twitter, and said she’s returned home safely.
Meanwhile, a Hong Kong court denied bail to two former senior editors charged with conspiring to publish seditious materials at Stand News.
Roughly 200 officers raided the office of the online publication on Wednesday, freezing its assets and arresting seven current and former senior editors and former board members. The move has been seen as the latest crackdown on the city’s press.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defended the raid, telling reporters that “inciting other people … could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.”
Stand News said Wednesday that it has ceased operations and has laid off all its staff.
Advocates and some western governments criticized the raid and arrests as a sign of further erosion of press freedoms since China imposed a wide-ranging national security law in the former British colony last year.
Mélanie Joly, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, said in a series of tweets Wednesday that the government is “deeply concerned” by the raid and arrests.
In a separate post on Thursday, Joly said the government stands by Ho.
“As for Ms. Ho, we stand by her,” she said. “Our consulate in Hong Kong is actively engaged and ready to offer the full extent of consular services.”
According to a charge sheet viewed by The Associated Press, national security police filed one count each of conspiracy to publish a seditious publication against Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam, former editors at Stand News. Police also said they would prosecute the company for sedition.
If convicted, they could face up to two years in prison and be fined up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($819).
The seven were arrested on Wednesday under a crime ordinance that stems from Hong Kong’s days as a British colony before 1997, when it was returned to China with a promise from Beijing it would keep democratic freedoms for 50 years.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken criticized the arrests, saying Chinese and local authorities are undermining Hong Kong’s “credibility and viability.”
“A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press,” he said.
Jenny Kwan, the New Democrat MP for Vancouver East who was born and raised in Hong Kong, told The Canadian Press the arrests show freedoms and human rights in the region are being ignored by the ruling Communist Party.
“With the news of the recent search of Stand News’ office and the arrest of its acting editor-in-chief Shiu-tung Lam, former editor-in-chief Pui-kuen Chung, former board members Margaret Ng, Denise Wan-see Ho, Tai-chi Chow and Christine Meng-sang Fang, it clearly illustrates that Hong Kong has turned into a police state,” she said.
Hong Kong’s government has denied targeting the media and curbing its freedoms and said the action against Stand News was aimed at seditious activity, not the suppression of journalism.
— with files from Reuters, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press