The Current

Hong Kong authorities are inciting protest violence, says singer and activist Denise Ho

Police in Hong Kong cracked down on pro-democracy protesters Wednesday by using tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray. Singer, actor and activist Denise Ho says the violence was provoked by police, not protesters.

Ho said police were 'throwing tear gas into the crowds and creating chaos'

Hong Kong-based artist and LGBTQ rights advocate Denise Ho performs on stage during the Oslo Freedom Forum in Oslo on May 27, 2019. (Ryan Kelly/NTB Scanpix via AP)
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The violence and chaos during the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests was provoked by police, according to Denise Ho.

"The police … just charged on, several times, without warning throwing tear gas into the crowds and creating chaos," said Ho, a long-time activist who attended the protests.

She told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that at one moment, she was in a packed group of people alongside a building when police threw tear gas into the crowd.

"It created fear and then people were screaming … all these young kids were trying to get into the building and I was personally pushed into a wall, I was also squashed," she recalled.

"It was really quite dangerous. And it was mostly provoked by the police."

Ho, a Canadian citizen, was born in Hong Kong but raised in Montreal. In addition to her work as an outspoken LGBTQ rights activist, she's an award-winning Cantopop singer and actor.

The protests, which began Wednesday and yielded tens of thousands of participants, was to rally against a controversial new extradition bill. The government-sponsored bill would allow people to be extradited to mainland China to face charges.

After protesters swarmed the legislative council building, which successfully delayed a scheduled debate, authorities moved in to clear the streets, using batons, water hoses, tear gas, rubber bullets and more to do so.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung called the situation a riot and urged protesters to go home.

Protesters face off with police during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. (Dale de la Rey/AFP/Getty Images)

Ho, however, argues that the protesters were "absolutely not" rioting, and theorizes that the quick reaction from police shows they don't want a repeat of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

The Umbrella Movement, also known as the Occupy Central movement, took place in Hong Kong five years ago in the wake of proposed reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system.

It lasted 79 days. Eight of the movement's leaders were handed prison sentences of up to 16 months after being convicted of public nuisance offences.

"They did not want people to be occupying the streets again … I think that is the new tactic for the Hong Kong government. So we, as the people, we have to change our tactics too," said Ho.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland put out a statement Wednesday outlining concerns over Beijing's planned extradition law, citing worry over Canadians who are in Hong Kong.

Denise Ho performs during a free concert in Hong Kong on June 19, 2016 after cosmetics giant Lancome cancelled a concert featuring the local singer. Many Hong Kong residents believed the Lancome-promoted gig was cancelled after China's state-run media criticized the French company for allowing her to perform. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Canada published a written response to Freeland's comments.

"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. No other country, organization or individual has the right to interfere in," the Chinese Embassy in Canada said in a response to Freeland's comments.

"Recently, some people from the Canadian government made irresponsible and erroneous comments on the Hong Kong SAR government's amendment to the ordinance and other Hong Kong affairs. We deplore and firmly oppose this," the statement reads, imploring Canada not to "encourage or support riot-makers."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


With files from CBC News and The Associated Press. Produced by Alison Maseman, Idella Sturino and Karin Marley.

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