Since China's grand One Belt One Road strategy came into action, China's overseas investment has become a hot topic. On 2 February 2018, the HKCTU hosted a discussion on “Chinese investments in Africa”, invited Ms Daisy Chan, who got her master's degree in international political economy of the University of Warwick; Mr Fredrik Fan, who got his master's degree in labour policies and globalization of University of Kassel, as speakers. The two speakers shared two case studies of China's overseas investment, to outline the behaviours of Chinese enterprises in Ethiopia and Kenya.


China has a long history of investment in Africa. Back in 1956, Mao Zedong funded some African countries to support communist countries in the Third World. In Deng Xiaoping's era, China switched to capitalism and the Government became more pragmatic in international trade. By 1999, China officially moved forward from its status of recipient country, changing its role of being a borrowing country to a lending country.

In order to alleviate  the international community's scepticism, China adopted a foreign policy of non-intervention and claimed its foreign aid as “unconditional”, namely, it would not demand its recipient countries to revise their systems or legislations. For the recipient countries, which were colonized by the western forces, Chinese support infers certain connotations of “anti-colonialism” and it becomes an alternative option. However, there is no free lunch. China has a whole agenda of international politics and economic plans, such as to export China's surplus capacity in production and gain grounds in the international political ideologies from the western countries.


To achieve these goals, China is launching more infrastructure projects in African countries. In East Africa, back in the colonial time, Kenyan people had dreamed about development and prosperity through the construction of railway. Between 2005 and 2008, through its Export-Import Bank, China handed out USD 3.8 billion to build a standard gauge railway across Kenya. The project was developed through the “build, operate and transfer (BOT) agreement”, namely it is built by Chinese capital and operated by China Communications Construction Company (the parent company of the constructor) for five years. If Kenya could repay the loan by then, the right to operate would be transferred back to the Kenyan government.


Agreements like prohibit open tenders, Chinese enterprises would carry out the project and are allowed to import Chinese workers to work in Africa. Such an arrangement would inevitably upset the local workers. In August 2016, a conflict broke out, Kenyan workers attacked Chinese workers and ended up with over 10 workers hospitalized. Reportedly, Chinese workers have been under strict surveillance and local trade union could not contact them.


Ethiopia is seen as a successful showcase of China's foreign policy and investment. It has become a shining emerging country in Africa, instead of that starving nation previously portrayed in World Vision's publications. Ethiopia has been ruled by dictators, free from colonial conquerors but heavily depending on western donations. With foreign funds, it revised its policy on public land ownership repeatedly and became a state led by neo-liberalism.

In late 2005, Ethiopian government brutally murdered anti-government protestors, detained reporters and foreign aid workers, gunned down people who were fighting for democracy. Its repression angered the international community, resulting in sanctions, which saw the World Bank and western countries pulled the plug on a USD 370 million aid. Seeing it as a chance, China offered USD 500 million to Ethiopia in 2006 and continued its aid in following years. The international sanctions fail to punish the Ethiopian government, but helped China to grow its roots in Ethiopia, By 2012, China was ranked the third biggest direct investor in Ethiopia.


Due to Ethiopia's political and economic significance, western countries do not want to risk their diplomatic ties with it and the sanctions were dropped eventually. Ethiopia became the biggest winner, receiving aid from both sides while continuing its authoritarian rule. It could even disagree with World Bank's development plans and still gets funding from China. In 2010, China offered USD 420 million to help building its Gibe III Dam. The project was initiated by the Ethiopian government, the loan came from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the construction of the dam would be contracted to Dongfang Electric. In 2011, China's Export-Import Bank provided a loan of USD 300 million for Ethiopia's economic reform and investment.


Through massive funds and loans, China is imposing its value and operation model to undermine its western counterparts'. The major difference between China and the western countries is, China provides a full package of capital, trade, financial aid, and infrastructure to promote overall economic development in the recipient countries, which is highly regarded in these countries.


Chinese government also provides trainings to officials in the recipient countries on China's economic strategies, development models and even auditing systems. This might appear harmless. However, together with the influence of Chinese media, China's legislature system and even Party-State system, the media and people of the developing countries would gradually adopt and approve the “Chinese model”. Apparently, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to influence how the world operates by flexing its economic muscles. Under the flag of non-intervention, China is resetting the world order according to its own interests. Many African countries have become faithful supporters of China, when they lend their support in the passing of China’s Anti-Session Law in 2005, rejecting Taiwan's UN membership in 2007 and bidding of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

It is true that western countries' neo-liberal financial aid, through World Trade Organization and World Bank, has caused many economic problems in the developing countries. However, simply accepting China as an “alternative of anti-colonialism” would overlook China's political agenda and the potential harm to human rights. With China's growing significance in the international community, global civil society starts to feel its grasp. When Beijing Consensus becomes a common consensus, the rhetoric in anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism is no longer relevant, because such consensus represents the rise of a new hegemony.

Consulate General Ignored Protestors   South Korean Union Suppression Sees No End


Feb 2018


In solidarity with the brothers and sisters from South Korea, the HKCTU and members of the civil society in Hong Kong staged a demonstration at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea today to protest against the arrest and imprisonment of union leaders.


Until now, two prominent members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), namely former President Han Sang-gyun and former General Secretary are still imprisoned for their involvement in a mass rally organized by KCTU on 14 November, 2015 in protesting the Korean Government’s unilateral revision of the Labour Law.  Brother Han was put on trial and sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment on 2016, while Sister Lee was arrested on December 2017 after she has terminated a two-year long self-imposed house arrest.  Sister Lee is now waiting for trial.



On the opening day of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games (9 Feb), some 40 members of the HKCTU and members of Hong Kong civil society took action to express our discontent against the union suppression in South Korea.  However, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea requested the Hong Kong Police to blockage the building in order to rebuff protesters from entering, nor would they send any representative to receive our petition.  In consistent with their Government at home, the Consulate General refused to respect the rights of the workers, as they completely turned a blind eye to the voice of the workers.  Although President Moon Jae-in has come into power for almost a year now, the attitude of Korean Government bureaucrats toward workers has not changed at all.  The reception we received today, further reveals the business inclined nature of both Hong Kong and Korean Governments and the common challenges that labour movements in both places are encountering.




Despite the protestors burned the petition in anger at the end, our solidarity and struggle does not end here.  In face of collusions between governments and corporates, more than ever do we need international solidarity to strengthen labour movements in various parts of the world.  In future, we will continue to lend our support to our sisters and brothers in South Korea, and together we will fight for the justice and respect that workers rightfully deserve.


Long Live International Solidarity!!!

Release Korean Union Leaders Respect Unions Rights


Feb 2018


Joint Statement from Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and Members of Hong Kong Civil Society


In 2016, the former president of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), was given a five-year sentence in jail for “obstruction of public duty”, “destruction of public goods”, “hosting an assembly at a banned location” and other 5 charges related to a mass rally organized by KCTU on 14 November, 2015 in protesting the Korean Government’s unilateral revision of the Labour Law.  His sentence was later reduced to three years in 2017.


At the meantime, the authorities issued an arrest warrant on former General Secretary of KCTU, Lee Young-joo, on identical charges.  During which, Sister Lee stayed in the headquarters of KCTU in a self-imposed house arrest to serve her term as General Secretary until December 2017.  Upon the completion of her term, Sister Lee immediately staged a hunger strike at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea to protest against the relaxation in working hours regulations, where she was subsequently arrested and is now waiting for trial.



We (signatories), as members of civil society in Hong Kong, would like to stress that as a legitimate independent trade union in South Korea, it is within the basic rights of the KCTU and her members to exercise freedom of association and assembly.  However, as the South Korean Government has used oppressive means to crackdown on trade unions time and again, it is a blatant act of political suppression to undermine the independent trade union movement, which aims to pave the way for the implementation of more relaxed labour policies.


As a matter of fact, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has repeatedly reiterated that the series of union suppression in South Korea infringe the basic principles of freedom of association and assembly.  As a result, the ITUC launched a complaint to the Committee of Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organization (ILO-CFA) against the South Korean Government with regard of the recent arrests.  In responding to the complaint, the ILO-CFA released a report on October 2017 to demand the immediate release of Brother Han as well as those who are still in detention for the organization of the 14 November 2015 demonstration.  On April 2017, the United Nation Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also described the detention of Han Sang-gyun as an “arbitrary detention” that violates the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recommended his immediate release.


However, despite enormous disapproval from international community, the South Korea Government continues to imprison Brother Han and arrest Sister Lee.  Although the South Korean President Moon Jae-in has granted pardon to some 6,444 prisoners last December, Brother Han was not on the list.  Especially even when the vice-chairman of Samsung Group, Lee Jae-yong, who was found guilty of corruption was released after given a suspended sentence just days ago, it further highlights the imbalance of power in labour relations in Korea has yet to be improved after the transition of power in presidency.  Independent trade union movement in Korea is still facing stern challenges from Government repression.


We, thereby would like to express our outrage at the Korean Government and condemn all acts of suppression on independent labour movement.  Today, taking the opportunity of the Opening of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, we would like to demand the Republic of Korea Government to:


1.  Immediate and unconditional release of Hang Sang-gyun, Lee Young-joo and all arrested union members;

2.  Revoke the charge of all arrested union members;

3.  Stop the suppression on all unions;

4.  Respect the rights of workers to freedom of association and assembly.


9 February, 2018


Initiated by:

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions



Labour Action China

China Labour Bulletin

Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese

Red Balloon Solidarity Editorial

Borderless Movement

Voter Uprising

Globalization Monitor

Labour Party

Community March

Left 21

Labour Education and Service Network

Solidar Suisse

Asia Monitor Resource Centre

Asian Transnational Corporations Monitoring Network


NWSC Labour Committee

League of Social Democrats

Worker Empowerment

Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour

Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre

Hong Kong Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs

Hong Kong Federation Asian Domestic Workers Unions

Asian Migrants Coordinating Body

Construction Workers Unions to Stop the Globalization of Chinese Corporate Exploitations


Dec 2017


At the BWI World Congress in South Africa, HKCTU Construction Site Workers General Union Chairperson, Chan Pat Kan, delivered a speech to congratulate unions from 10 nations organized more than 30,000 workers in Chinese Transnational Corporates, initiated 66 strikes and pushed for collective bargaining agreements signed with domestic unions. However, he stressed that workers in China are still deprived of basic labour rights such as freedom of association and call for support from the international community. Chan urged stronger collaboration between international unions to monitor Chinese corporate behaviours in order to keep the expansion of Authoritarian Capitalism at bay.

Stop War on Humanity, Stop the Killings in the Philippines Now


Sep 2017


Today (21/9), in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the Philippines, the HKCTU participated in the demonstration organized by BAYAN Hong Kong & Macau and GABRIELA Hong Kong against the extrajudicial killings explicitly or implicitly sanctioned by the Duterte administration.


When Duterte was first elected as President in 2016, many in the Philippines hoped that he would bring genuine social change and progress to the country.  However, his campaign of “War on Drugs” has already caused human rights disaster across the country which resulted in the deaths of many innocent people, especially those of the poor and underprivileged.  In the past year, an estimated 13,000 people were killed in Duterte’s “War on Drugs”, including minors and teenagers, some of whom are children of overseas Filipino workers.  Recent events such as his attack on the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman, abandoning peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and cutting the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to a meagre P1,000 (HKD154) per year, further reveal Duterte’s attempt to consolidate power and disregard human rights.  When human rights and civil liberty is under threat, we are afraid that the Philippines are moving ever closer to another dictatorship since Marcos.


Thus, we demand the Duterte Government to stop all killings and suppressions on the civil society now, and at the meanwhile, carry out genuine reforms that would bring economic and civic justice to the people.

In Solidarity with Han Sang-gyun   HKCTU Condemns Union Busting


Jul 2016

On July 4th, 2016, Brother Han Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), was given a five-year sentence in jail for charges related to the “obstruction of public duty”, “destruction of public goods”, “obstruction of traffic”, and “hosting an assembly at a banned location”. However, the severe sentence handed down to Brother Han is by no means a fair reflection of his actions. In reality, all he did was to stand for workers and organize them for collective actions against employers’ unfair treatments.  The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) deem that the sentencing of the president of a major independent trade unions is a violation of basic labour rights and human rights.  This is a blatant political prosecution which is aimed at undermining the labour movement in South Korea.


Besides Han, about 600 leaders and members of KCTU have been arrested for their participation in Sewol Ferry Tragedy Commemoration Rally on April, a May Day demonstration, and demonstrations against labour law reforms and Peope’s Mass Rally on November. As of now, 20 of them including Sister Lee Young-Joo, the General Secretary of KCTU, are still remained in detention under government’s control.


As a member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Korea is obliged to respect workers' rights to freedom of association. However, as seen from the arrest of Brother Han Sang-gyun, the Korean government has been suppressing labour unionists for “disturbing social order”, which is clearly violating the fundamental civil rights suggested by the ILO.




The vice-Chairman of HKCTU, Brother Alex Kwok, has already flown into Seoul to observe the trial and join in the solidarity action in support of Brother Han Sang-gyun.  Meanwhile, 15 representatives from the HKCTU staged a protest against the Consulate General of Korea in Hong Kong in the morning of July 4th.  The demonstrators demanded the immediately release of all detained KCTU unionists and stop all political suppressions on trade unions.


Since the Consulate General refused to receive the petition, the demonstrators left their demands and petition at the entrance before they dispersed.  Whether the letter was sent to the government or not remains unknown, but what is more important is that HKCTU managed to display solidarity with KCTU and condemned the Korean government in union busting.  The HKCTU will continue to fight for injustice that is inflicted upon trade unions elsewhere in the world and stand by our sisters and brothers in Korea until the final victory.


HKCTU general secretary called for more campaign plans in the ITUC AP action programme 2016-2019


Aug 2015

Intervention on Action Plan


Thank you for your support to the workers in Hong Kong in our struggle for democracy during the umbrella movement last year.  We have voted down in the Legislative Council the fake democracy proposal imposed on Hong Kong by the National People Congress.  We have not yet achieved universal suffrage but we will continue our struggle for democracy.


The Chinese workers are deprived of their rights to independent unions but they are struggling for their rights even under political suppression.  There are waves of strike by workers for better wages or compensations for unfair dismissal, and they tried to press for negotiation.  But many of the strikers had to face the public security and in some cases beaten up and in other case arrested for public disorder.  The Chinese Government is also considering a law to control NGOs and is already putting pressure on Chinese Labour NGOs for their work among workers.  But the workers still continue to struggle and to go on strike.


It is imperative for the ITUC-AP to support basic labour rights and especially in our region the rights index is 4.14 very close to 5.  I am sure ITUC-AP action program will address this issue and other labour issues raised by affiliates but the question is implementation.


We do not want to see seminars after seminars without campaign plan or clear targets to be achieved.  This is why we need to change.  I call upon all of us here to support change including creation of the post of Assistant General Secretary to strengthen our organization.

Intervention on the election of General Secretary


State clearly the HKCTU supported Carol for the post of General Secretary because Carol represented Change.  We have been asking for changes of the way AP was run for many years withourt result.  AP is just repeating the same work every years.  We hope that there can be evaluation of the work.  There should be priorities and focus and there should be short term achievable goals.  We want result s for our programs and evaluation of our programs to see why we can not avieve the results.


Intervention of the Constitutional amendments


Register my opposition on the way they changed the votes to based on membership and this is unfair to small affiliates.


Support a working group to look into Constitutional reforms.


Support having an AGS to support the GS in his work.  AP should not put all responsibility on one person.  He or she should be supported by an assistant.  Most Unions had this structure and ITUC other regions have this structure.

Hong Kong Falls Back In The Global Rights Index Ranks As The Worst


Jun 2015

In 2015,Hong Kong is ranked as the second most competitive economy in the world, rose from fourth to fell just behind the U.S. However, according to the International Trade Union Confederation's (ITUC) Global Rights Index published on June 10th, Hong Kong's Labour Protection Rating is one of the worst in the world.  The ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from 1 to 5+ according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.  Hong Kong drops down in the pecking in this year's Rights Index to the 5 ranking which represents “No guarantee of rights”, along with some other 26 countries, such as China, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran.  While the Hong Kong government and Financial Secretary John Tsang credited Hong Kong's Economic Competitiveness to her prominent administrative and business efficiency, and welcome the Global  Economic Competitiveness Ranking; we wonder how the government would respond to the decline in the Rights Index?

The General Secretary of the HKCTU, Mr. Lee Cheuk-Yan, pointed out Hong Kong workers have long been deprived of the rights to collective bargaining and to join trade union without discrimination.  Moreover, labour rights failed to progress and fulfilled during the political reform.  The ITUC report specifically takes note of the arrest of HKCTU members during the “Umbrella Movement” as a suppression of democratic unionism.  The HKCTU strongly urged the government to pass legislation on collective bargaining and overturn policies that favour consortium.


Hong Kong is ranked in the 5 ranking which represents “No guarantee of rights”. In these countries at 5 ranking, although laws are in placed to protect labour rights, they are largely disregarded and workers are often suppressed by authoritarian regimes.  As for countries such as Iraq, Libya, and Somalia etc., their legal systems are deemed as malfunctioned and destroyed, therefore are ranked in the 5+ ranking, which is the worst among the five-tier ranking system.

The HKCTU believes the non-existence of collective bargaining—workers voices are often suppressed whenever dispute arises between employees and employers—can be credited to such “No guarantee of rights”.  On the other hand, workers are deprived of their rights to establish and join trade unions.  Despite the relative low threshold in relevant legislation, employers are able to employ all kinds of means to threaten or deter workers from organizing themselves.  Thus, there isn't much to cheer for as the prosperity of our city is built upon the exploitation of labour rights.  This is a real shame for a government that often boast to establish Hong Kong as a world class city.


ITUC Global Rights Index names world’s ten worst countries for workers

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ITUC Global Rights Index names world’s ten worst countries for workers


Jun 2015

The Gulf States are among the world’s worst countries for workers’ rights, while workers under European austerity measures endured the starkest deterioration of standards, according to the 2015 Global Rights Index.


The ITUC rights index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice.

“Workers in the Gulf States where the draconian ‘kafala’ system is widespread endure many of the violations which make the Middle East and North Africa the world’s worst region for fundamental rights at work,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

“But in a worrying trend, European workers have witnessed the starkest deterioration of their rights in the last 12 months due to widespread government-imposed austerity measures taking effect.”

The International Trade Union Confederation has been collecting data on the abuse of trade union rights around the world for more than 30 years. This is the second year the ITUC has presented its findings through the Global Rights Index, offering a snapshot for government and business to see how their laws and supply chains have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months.

The ten worst countries for working people are Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and United Arab Emirates.

Other countries ranked lower but had worsening conditions this year in a clear negative trend for workers. These nations were Burundi, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Iran, Georgia, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain.

“Workers in Colombia and Guatemala have been murdered for trying to negotiate better working conditions, while in Qatar and Saudi Arabia migrants continue to endure forced labour and labour law exclusions which amount to modern slavery.

“In 73 of 141 countries, workers faced dismissals, suspensions, pay cuts and demotions for attempting to negotiate better working conditions, while in 84 countries employers adopted illegal strategies to deny or delay bargaining with representative trade unions.

“While a handful of countries have attained perfect scores compared to last year, there’s been an increase across the board in the number of countries where conditions have worsened, including nations such as Cameroon, Hungary, Spain and South Africa,” Ms Burrow said.

The reports key findings include:

* Out of a total of 141 countries, the number where workers faced arbitrary arrest and detention increased from 35 to 44, and included countries such as Spain and Brazil.

* In almost 60 per cent of countries, certain types of workers are excluded from their fundamental labour rights.

* Unionists were murdered in 11 countries, one up from last year, including 22 deaths in Colombia alone.

* Seventy per cent of countries have workers with no right to strike.

* Two thirds of countries deny workers collective bargaining rights.

* More than half of countries in the survey deny workers access to the rule of law.

In the past year, unions have reported violent crackdowns on peaceful protests in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ukraine; in Qatar around 100 migrant workers striking against poverty wages were arrested last November, while in March this year a Filipino union organiser became the 18th case of extra-judicial killing since 2010.

“International labour standards prescribe access to fundamental rights for all workers,” Ms Burrow said. “Yet as corporate power and inequality grows internationally, these results show governments and employers in almost every country around the world must improve their treatment of workers and arrest the increase in workplace violations.”

The 2015 ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings.

1. Irregular violations of rights: 16 countries including Finland & Uruguay
2. Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan & Ireland
3. Regular violations of rights: 36 countries including Israel & Australia
4. Systematic violations of rights: 27 countries including Poland & USA
5. No guarantee of rights: 27 countries including Belarus, China & Nigeria
5+ No guarantee of rights due to breakdown of the rule of law: nine countries including Syria, Central African Republic & Palestine




WOMEN FOR PEACE - International Women’s Day 2015


Mar 2015

WOMEN FOR PEACE - International Women's Day 2015

To celebrate International Women's Day on March 8, 2015 the IUF Asia/Pacific Regional Secretariat will coordinate activities with affiliates in several countries with the theme Women for Peace.

The theme Women for Peace was chosen primarily in response to the resurgent militarism in the region and a militarization of politics that threatens democracy. Governments are using the threat of violent clashes, civil war, terrorism, border disputes and territorial claims to suspend, impose or amend laws in ways that undermine democratic rights.

The tragedy of the clash in Mamasapano in the Philippines in January 2015 cost lives on both sides including civilians. This should have been a reminder of the importance of peace. Instead it quickly became a matter of determining who is human enough to be counted among the number of fallen. This now threatens to derail the passing of the constitution of Bangsamoro - with its commitment to internationally recognized worker and trade union rights - and violence will return affecting hundreds of thousands of working people.

With resurgent militarism - including remilitarization in East Asia - direct political censorship and indirect corporate media censorship threatens freedom of expression in several countries. Increasingly "emergency" or security measures are used to justify restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Under Thailand's military government democratic rights remain suspended and freedom of expression and freedom of assembly severely restricted. Gathering in groups of more than four people in public is illegal and censorship is aggressive to the point of absurdity. The banning of the The Hunger Games books and films and the criminalization of reading George Orwell's 1984 in public suggests the military government is well aware of what people think of the regime.

While the Thai ruling elite negotiate the transition back to civilian government, working people face continued fear and uncertainty about the restoration of rights and their ability to secure human rights such as genuine freedom of association. These rights were not fully recognized even before the military coup.

In Hong Kong the leaders of the only independent trade union in China face criminal prosecution for their role in the Umbrella Movement. The struggle for universal suffrage - including the right to directly elect the chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR - has now become a struggle to retain even the most basic rights of the Hong Kong people, including freedom of association.  The symbolism of the Umbrella Movement itself is an indictment of state violence. When pro-democracy protesters were attacked by the police with pepper spray and tear gas they used umbrellas to protect themselves. This reminds us that our struggle for democracy in society and for worker and trade union rights in the workplace is also a struggle to protect ourselves from everyday violence and oppression.

In Indonesia the prospects of a return to the New Order military dictatorship remains a significant threat to democracy.  Military and business interests backed by a significant part of the trade union movement failed to elect a military dictator in 2014 but continue to undermine the democratic government by promoting regionalism and orchestrating "communal violence" based on religion and ethnicity. Strikes and demonstrations - the tools of our labour movement in fighting for rights, justice and democracy - are being used to undermine democracy. Industrial militancy is becoming a form of extortion, holding democracy hostage while promoting a militaristic industrial militancy with international support.

In Myanmar too politically driven "communal violence" threatens a return to civil war with loss of life on a massive scale while justifying the reintroduction of martial law. The opportunity to promote human rights including genuine freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in Myanmar may be lost very soon.

Despite the risk of a return to military rule there is only talk of patience and tolerance for a slowly reforming government as fear of upsetting generals in business suits overrides the concern for universal human rights. So while the international community practices tolerance for a military government in business suits, powerful political and business interests actively promote intolerance and hatred, unleashing terrible violence on working people and their communities.

In India the Prime Minister whose political career is built on creating "communal violence" and the glorification of Italian fascism and Nazism is now creating a new climate of religious hatred and intolerance while pushing a corporate agenda that threatens to undermine democratic rights.

Any fascist agenda needs thugs. Street thugs have become political and religious leaders under the Modi regime. These thugs are not religious but are the same ignorant street thugs with a new justification for their violence and oppression of others, especially violence against women.

In Pakistan too the same thugs inflict horrific violence on women and children. The horrific attack on a school in Peshawar in December last year resulted in the death of 145 people including 132 children. While this brutality is meant to instill fear it in fact compels us to mobilize and demand peace.

The reality in Pakistan is that the same murderous thugs are used by ruling political elites, powerful military interests and feudal landlords finance and encourage political conflicts and communal/tribal violence disguised as religious conflict. This abuse and misuse of religion feeds on ignorance of the meaning of peace, social justice and the rights of women and children in religious faith. And at the same time this conflict undermines a fragile democracy, paving the way for a return to military rule.

The attempted murder in 2012 of 15 year-old Malala Yousafzai for advocating women and girls’ education was intended by conservative forces to instill fear. Yet it had the opposite effect. With tens of thousands of other outraged people our members in Pakistan took to the streets to protest the attack on Malala. Today our members celebrate her continued activism and recognition as a Nobel Peace laureate in 2014 along with child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi from India.

As one of India's leading activists campaigning against child labour Kailash Satyarthi, said recently: “…creating an environment of fear is also violence."

This environment of fear is precisely why we must stop the violence and struggle to rebuild peace. While peace is not a sufficient condition for securing women's rights and dignity, it is an essential condition. 

The environment of fear that militarism and communal violence creates permeates every aspect of women's lives.  The rise in violent attacks on women and gang rape in India is tied to the same sense of impunity that the government promotes to divide and oppress working people. It is fuelled by the very same ignorance, hatred, intolerance and brutality.

For women workers throughout the Asia/Pacific this environment of fear pervades their communities and workplaces. At a recent international conference on ethical tourism we explained that hotel housekeepers (room attendants) struggling to "Make My Workplace Safe" must overcome all kinds of fear:

  • Fear to speak out or complain
  • Fear to fail (where excessive targets or quotas are imposed and failure results in penalties or lost income)
  • Fear to stop work (even when work is hazardous or dangerous)
  • Fear to report (intimidation and harassment, sexual harassment, child labour)
  • Fear to ask (for paid breaks, for personal protective equipment, for help to complete as task)
  • Fear to say ‘enough’ (to stop excessive working hours and workloads)
  • Fear to say ‘more’ (the demand for higher wages)

The list goes on. And it all adds up to an environment of fear which is also violence.

That is why on March 8 we will also coordinate hotel workers' demands across the Asia/Pacific to "Make My Workplace Safe - for Women!”

Faced with similar challenges in an environment of fear, women food workers in Indonesia and women tea workers in India will highlight the violence to women's health inflicted by brutal working conditions.

Excessive working hours, heavy workloads, severe restrictions on rest breaks and toilet breaks, denial of maternity rights, lack of access to paid leave and paid sick leave, and exposure to hazardous chemicals all harm women's health, often causing lasting damage. Poverty wages reinforce all of this - compelling women to do "voluntary" overtime and sacrifice rest days even when they are physically and mentally exhausted and near collapse.

On a tea plantation in Assam, India, 55 year-old Sister Raimati Majhi did collapse from exhaustion. But the doctor at the company-owned hospital on the tea plantation sent her back to work without treatment. When she was hospitalized again after collapsing she died while the doctor chatted on his mobile phone. When workers gathered in front of the hospital to protest the police were called in to arrest them. Eighteen workers (12 men and six women) were unfairly terminated and after four years 15 workers have not yet been reinstated.

Sister Maya Chatriya was among those arrested. In order to pay her bail money her husband - a tea worker on the same plantation - resigned from his job to get severance pay. The severance pay was used to pay her bail. Sister Maya Chatriya still faces charges while she works on the plantation, her husband is without work and they are in debt. And there is still no justice for Sister Raimati Majhi. This is violence.

Six months before the death of Sister Raimati Majhi a pregnant woman worker on the same tea estate, Sister Manju Versa, died after she was denied paid sick leave and did not receive proper medical care.

On March 8th we will hold a mass meeting on the plantation to remember the killing of Sister Raimati Majhi and Sister Manju Versa, and support Sister Maya Chatriya and 15 others in their fight against victimization. We will also bring women doctors – real doctors who see women tea workers as human - to give free medical check-ups while we run workshops on health and safety rights.

We started by saying we plan to celebrate International Women's Day. So instead of focusing on fear and violence we will highlight the tremendous courage of our women union members throughout the region.

We will celebrate the struggle for democracy and democratic rights, recognizing our sisters who continue speaking out to reaffirm freedom of expression, speaking out in the workplace, gathering and organizing in the community, in the streets and in the workplace. All of this takes courage and we will proudly recognize this courage and celebrate our sisters being fearless in fearful times.


Hidayat Greenfield

Acting Regional Secretary


February 17th 2015


ITUC Asia Pacific Letter to the Chief Executive of HKSAR


Nov 2014

14 November 2014

The Honorable Chun-ying Leung
The Chief Executive
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)
Hong Kong

Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Dear Chief Executive Leung,

Re: Umbrella Movement for Democracy in Hong Kong

Enclosed please find a resolution on Hong Kong adopted by the ITUC-AP Regional General Council in its 10th Meeting in Manila, 27-28 October 2014.

As stated in the resolution, the Hong Kong Government should take all the necessary measure to implement universal suffrage in conformity with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and we urge you to call on, as a matter of urgency, all parties to engage in peaceful dialogue.

For your information, the ITUC Asia Pacific is the Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation for Asia and the Pacific representing effectively 60 million members of 56 affiliates in 32 countries, and the ITUC represents 168 million members globally.

Sincerely yours,

Noriyuki Suzuki
General Secretary

Enclosure: 10th ITUC-AP RGC Resolution on Hong Kong Umbrella Movement for Democracy

c.c. 1. Ms. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC
       2. Mr. Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary, HKCTU