How Denise Ho went from Cantopop queen to pro-democracy activist

New Yorker staff writer Jiayang Fan discusses the "queen of Cantopop," Denise Ho. The Hong Kong pop star has become a political figure after coming out as a gay and supporting Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution.
Cantopop singer Denise Ho speaks to the media before performing a free concert in Hong Kong on June 19, 2016 after cosmetics giant Lancôme cancelled a concert featuring the local singer who is critical of China. (ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)

In Hong Kong in 2014 the song Raise Your Umbrella by Denise Ho and Anthong Wong became an anthem for the pro-democracy movement known as the Umbrella Revolution. The song was written after police fired tear gas into the crowds when protestors filled the streets.

Ho didn't just sing about the Umbrella Revolution, she put herself on the front lines. Photographs of her being arrested during protests had an immediate impact, because she was a hugely popular pop star with dedicated fans in Hong Kong and across mainland China. Ho was known as the "queen of Cantopop," the sexy and progressive Cantonese-language pop music centred in Hong Kong.

Not long before the protests, Ho came out as a gay woman. In a new feature in The New Yorker, staff writer Jiayang Fan writes about the price Ho has paid for standing up and standing out. The story is also an examination of the relations between mainland China and Hong Kong, in the corridors of power and in the streets.

Fan joins guest host Laurie Brown from the CBC studio in New York to tell us more about the story. 

Produced by ​Chris Trowbridge and Beza Seife

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