HKCTU 25th Anniversary Review: Marching to the Light
HKCTU 25th Anniversary Review:
Marching to the Light
The Unfinished Road to Democracy
As we are entering into the 25th anniversary of the HKCTU, Hong Kong is also arriving at a crossroad of unknown. While moving forward in darkness, it is important that look into our previous experiences in Labour Movement to shed light on a brighter future.
In the next four editions of the HKCTU Solidarity Post, we will take a look at how sisters and brothers of the HKCTU put forward the four motto of the HKCTU “Solidarity, Rice Bowl, Democracy, and Juctice” in 25 years of independent unionism.
The HKCTU has always been an important player in the Hong Kong Democratic Movement. Through this arduous 25 years, we have brought the voice of the the workers into the Legislative Council, we encouraged workers to participate in social movement. In face of the current precarious political situation, while we are happy to see some workers have taken the lead to fight for democracy, we are also earnest to call for many more to join our league.
Workers Politicized: From “Direct Election in 88”
During the 80's , while the FTU was still proclaiming they “Prefer Food Stamps to Ballots”, the democrats has already been fighting for the “Direct Election in 88” and demanded the introduction of direct elected seats in the Legislative Council. Many civil servant unions were among the instigators. The Tienanmen Square in 1989 was a catalyst that united these democratic independent unions and prompted the establishment of the HKCTU in 1990. In 1995, the colonial government further expanded the number of direct elected seats in the Legislative Council through the introduction of Nine New Functional Groups, commonly known as the “Nine New Groups”. There were heated debate within the CTU when the Chief Executive of that time, Mr. Lee Cheuk Yan, decided to run for office through the “Nine New Groups”. Mr. Chan Sam Choi from the Concrete Industry Workers Union recalled, 'many unionist did not understand the meaning of politics. Many of these unions have just started, they just wanted to fix their own problems.' Meanwhile, many other believed unionists were too practical to see the importance of bringing the voice of the workers into the Legco. After Lee was elected into Legco, he made use of the “Private Bill” to bring many changes to the Labour Law. But many workers only saw the outcome without giving much thoughts on the democratic progress. Sam Choi described 1995 was a turning point, it was not until 1995 the HKCTU became more involved in social affairs, 'we learned through our experiences' he stressed.
Half a million Hong Kongers took to the streets on July 1st, 2003 to protest against Article 23. Despite some people called for universal suffrage in the procession, it was not the strongest demand of all. The HKCTU mobilized 6,000 workers to take part in the rally under the slogan “Labour Rights Under Threat”. Like many Hong Kongers, it was the first time Ms. Bo Lai Wan, from the Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union, has experienced such a massive social movement. 'It felt like we all went to a battlefield' she remembered, 'no matter how humble my background was, I should have the right to elect the Chief Executive.' After 2003, people began discussions on the core values of Hong Kong. Imaginations of an ideal society thrived, a civil society was on the making.
On August 31st, 2014, the National People's Congress denied us of our genuine democracy. Hong Kong people's last hope of universal suffrage turn into smoke like the tear gas on fired the night of September 28th. Many trade unions joined the first political strike launched in the history of CTU on September 29th. The HKCTU also provided many marshals and participants during the subsequent Umbrella Movement. Hong Kong people's demand for a democratic society has never been stronger. We expect nothing but an even tougher battle in future, it will be a test to the wisdom and capability we accumulated from the past 25 years of social movement.