UN calls for release of ailing Hong Kong rights lawyer Albert Ho

Ho was sent back to jail after allegedly breaking bail conditions despite suffering from lung cancer.
RFA Cantonese
2023.03.30
UN calls for release of ailing Hong Kong rights lawyer Albert Ho Veteran Hong Kong rights activist Albert Ho walks with police after his arrest in Hong Kong, March 21, 2023. Credit: Reuters
Photo: RFA

The United Nations has called on Hong Kong authorities to release veteran rights activist and lawyer Albert Ho, who was returned to custody to await trial for "subversion" under a national security law after his bail was revoked earlier this month.

"We are following ongoing cases under National Security Law (#NSL) with great concern," the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said via its Twitter account on March 28. "A week ago, Albert Ho was returned to custody under this law, despite his critical health condition."

"We urge authorities to release Ho, to continue his urgent medical care," the tweet said.

The 71-year-old Ho had applied for bail on the grounds that he is suffering from cancer, and was released pending trial in August 2022.

He was rearrested on March 22 following media reports citing police sources as saying that he "interfered with witnesses and obstructed justice,” breaching his bail conditions.

Ho, a former chairman of Hong Kong's second-largest political party, the Democratic Party, was also chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which stands accused of acting as the agent of a foreign power. 

Leaders Chow Hang-tung, Albert Ho, and Lee Cheuk-yan were arrested on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," and the group's assets frozen under the national security law.

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Hong Kong activist Party's Albert Ho [center] frees himself from mock handcuffs during a 2015 protest in Hong Kong after at least 50 Chinese human rights lawyers and activists were detained or questioned in an "unprecedented" police swoop. Credit: AFP

Hong Kong-born Ho was educated in the city, graduating in law from the University of Hong Kong, then serving as lawyer to various charitable and non-government groups before setting up his own law firm and eventually winning a seat on the Legislative Council for the Democratic Party, which he went on to lead.

Ho also led legal training across various professional sectors in mainland China, and has represented Chinese victims of World War II, namely sex slaves and victims of forced labor, some of whom traveled to Japan to claim compensation, the London-based rights lawyers' advocacy group 29 Principles said in a profile on its website.

Ho co-founded the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, which later became the most influential party in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in the 1990s.

In early 2007, he set up the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group and served as chairman and vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance, helping to organize the now-banned annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. 

Ho was handed an 18-month jail term by judge Amanda Woodcock in May 2021 for “organizing and inciting others to take part in an illegal assembly” in connection with a protest over the banning of the vigil.

Since 2019, he has been targeted with several different criminal charges for peacefully exercising his right to assembly.

Before his arrest, Ho told journalists he was exhausted by constantly visiting friends and former colleagues in various prisons and detention centers, as the authorities began a citywide crackdown on dissent under the national security law, the 29 Principles profile said. It added that he had also asked his doctors to get his medication for lung cancer ready in case he was arrested.

"I have been in the democratic movement for many years and I am still a free man,” it quoted him saying before his arrest. “I have been lucky. In many other places, people who fight for democracy are all jailed."

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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