HKCTU disbands, but the power of solidarity remains

Sep 2021
United Nations
Hong Kong, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, Democracy, Solidarity

The trade union movement in Hong Kong has been a constant target of attacks, threats, and intimidation by the government since the adoption of the National Security Law in 2020. Along with other pro-democratic activists, Lee Cheuk-Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) was arrested and imprisoned for organising and participating in peaceful demonstrations, a right that has been guaranteed by international laws as well as Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

In the recent months, the unprecedented weaponization of the National Security Law to criminalise previously guaranteed rights has intensified, putting the security of trade unionists and activists at risk. In particular, the state-owned media started a smear campaign to intimidate trade unions and civil society organisations.

This led to the decision of HKCTU to start the process of dissolution. Other organisations that have been targeted by similar attacks, such as the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists and the Hong Kong-based labour rights NGO, Asia Monitor Resource Centre, were likewise left with no choice but to disband themselves.

Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-Asia Pacific, said “The HKCTU is a pillar of the trade union movement, not only in Hong Kong, but also internationally. As the largest independent trade union confederation in Hong Kong, HKCTU has been at the forefront of struggles for better labour legislations, wages, and social protection in Hong Kong in the past three decades. It has also shown solidarity with trade unions in other parts of the world in their respective fights amidst the similarly shrinking democratic space in their countries.”

The ITUC-Asia Pacific strongly condemns the aggressive attacks against trade unions and pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong and echoes the call of the International Trade Union Confederation on the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities “to cease the prosecutions and intimidation of trade unionists and advocates for fundamental freedoms and to release those who have been imprisoned.”

“In HKCTU’s statement regarding its dissolution, HKCTU Chair Wong Nai-yuen remarked that ‘a movement may encounter setbacks… but we’re always faithful that solidarity is power.’ It is in this spirit of unbreakable solidarity that ITUC-Asia Pacific, representing more than 60 million workers in Asia and the Pacific region, continues to stand firmly with HKCTU and the people of Hong Kong in their fight for a democratic society where fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed and respected,” Shoya Yoshida added.

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