Ho was born in what was then British Hong Kong on 1 December 1951 in a big family with six children. His father worked in a shipping company by day and as a translator by night, along with two other jobs that he had. Ho earned his Bachelor of Laws with honors from the University of Hong Kong in 1974. He went on to obtain his postgraduate Certificate in Laws the following year.
He attended lectures given by Hsu Kwan-san, a Chinese historian who later became a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, whom Ho cited his political belief and Chinese national sentiment were influenced by. During his college life, he developed his liberal ideals and actively involved in student politics and campaigned for Mak Hoi-wah who ran for the Hong Kong University Students' Union against the Maoist nationalists who dominated the student union in the 1970s.
Ho was admitted as a solicitor in July 1977 and appointed a notary public in 1988. He worked for Messrs. C.Y. Kwan & Co. as a solicitor for almost 20 years before departing to set up his own law firm, Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners. His litigation experience ranges from cases related to banking and commercial law to land law and matrimonial disputes, and also in criminal and medical negligence cases. He has done a number of human rights cases on a pro-bono basis for the pan-democracy camp.
Ho stepped into politics when he was first appointed to the Kowloon City District Board from 1982 to 1983. In 1985 he co-founded the Hong Kong Affairs Society (HKAS) to participate in the electoral politics during the transition period. During his spell as the leader of the HKAS, he demanded the faster pace of democratisation in Hong Kong and safeguarding the freedom and lifestyles after the handover of Hong Kong to Mainland China after 1997. In 1989, he co-founded the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China to support the Tiananmen protests of 1989 and critical of the Beijing government's bloody crackdown. He became the third chairman of the alliance since 2014, succeeding Lee Cheuk-yan.
He ran for the Urban Council in Kowloon City West in the 1986 municipal election but was defeated by incumbent Peter Chan Chi-kwan. He ran again in the 1991 Urban Council election in Southern District but was again lost to incumbent Joseph Chan Yuet-sut of the conservative Liberal Democratic Federation of Hong Kong. He was elected to the Regional Council in the municipal elections in 1995, winning the largest number of votes in Regional Council. He kept served on the council through 1997 until it was abolished by then Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2000.