Democracy and labour rights blocked! Who can clear it up?

Mung Siu-tat, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

 

I took part in the civil disobedience action to protect the Occupied Zone on 11 December 2014 and was arrested in Harcourt Road. The police escorted me to Kwai Chung Police Station and my charges are unlawful assembly and obstructing the work of police. I am now on bail on my own recognizance and will have to report to the police station in early January.

 

Some might say, yesterday’s action was to complete the last step of civil disobedience, namely, to bear legal responsibility and the consequences of our resistance, to uphold the rule of law. Sorry! That is not how I see it. I must clarify that I went out yesterday, not for the above-mentioned purpose. When rich people could make use of injunctions to eliminate the voices of the powerless, when China’s National People’s Congress could override the courts and make arbitrary interpretation of the Basic Law, I cannot convince myself that bearing legal responsibility of these unjust laws (including Public Order Ordinance) can be beneficial to the justice. I simply do not see the rule of law in the midst of these laws.

 

Some memories kept coming back to me, when I was waiting for the police’s clearance at the Occupied Zone: in 2007, the barbenders blocked Ice House Street, where the old government headquarters used to be, to protest against Matthew Cheung, Secretary of Labour and Welfare Bureau, who turned a blind eye to workers’ hardship; in 2013, dock workers were ordered to leave the dock they had worked day and night as the employer applied an injunction from court, and etc. Many of my colleagues from the labour movement joined the last civil disobedience action in Admiralty, to carry out a belief that we unionists have been convinced and shared, from the barbenders’ strike, dockers’strike and many other labour movements. We believe that laws should not override democracy and labour rights which we are entitled to. In fact, we should be particularly alerted, when laws are becoming a tool of the rich and the government. Workers are not going to be limited by unjust laws. If we obey injunctions and Public Order Ordinance each time, we cannot organize any collective action to fight for our dignity.

 

After nearly two decades in the labour movement, probably a fourth of my whole life, I have witnessed too much exploitation at workplace and social injustice and I keep being inspired by workers’ resistance. As a trade unionist, my nature is to fight for those who have worked hard honestly, to help them and their families take back their dignity. Yet, I must admit to my conscience: it is impossible to keep my faith and carry out my work, without the protection from a democratic system.

 

If we would accept the political reform proposal from the National People’s Congress, the government would only have the interests of the business sector in mind, as they are the few but powerful nominators. It implies universal labour rights, such as standard working hours, right to collective bargaining, universal pension fund, would continue to be “blocked” by the functional constituencies. When the roads are occupied, bailiff and the police would conduct the clearance, yet, what happen if our democratic rights and labour rights are “blocked”? If we don’t join force, who can clear up this government?

 

In future, we might encounter more arrests and accusations, but we are not going to back off. The independent labour movement is determined to fight for genuine universal suffrage and we will take up the responsibility with other civil society organizations, to plant the seeds of democracy throughout our network. We are aiming at a bottom up social reform, with democratisation of labour relations and building up democratic unions as our strategies. We will fight till we win.

 

Mung sit-tat 

Dec 12 2014

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