Workers in Hong Kong fight on to defy “Extradition to China”
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions are at the forefront in supporting the massive social movement against the Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill (hereafter: extradition bill). The controversial bill was proposed by the Hong Kong government in February 2019 to establish a mechanism for transfers of fugitives for Mainland China, Macau, and Taiwan. The introduction of the bill caused widespread criticism domestically and abroad fearing that the city would open itself up to the long arm of mainland Chinese law and that people from Hong Kong fall victim to a different legal system, which is notorious for its disregard in human rights, independent judiciary, and fair public trial.
For the HKCTU, the bill is deemed to be a further erosion of the “one country, two systems” and the highly independent legal system in Hong Kong. The bill will subject Hong Kong residents to de facto jurisdiction of courts controlled by the Communist Party of China. According to the figures released by the Statistics Department in 2011, about 170,000 Hong Kong residents worked in Mainland China frequently. Due to the judicial and cultural differences between Hong Kong and China, as well as various “distinctive national circumstances” in China, many Hong Kong workers might have reluctantly or unknowingly violated laws while carrying business duties in China. For instance, as bribery is a norm to get apparently everything done in Mainland China, many workers were ordered by their employers to offer bribes to government officials for various approvals or custom clearances. Meanwhile, the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance in the proposed bill will also put civil society organizations and activists under genuine threats of political prosecution and submission by the Chinese Government, especially for those who are supporting rights defending movement in China.
Since the bill was first proposed by the Hong Kong Government in February 2019, the HKCTU has been at the forefront in opposition. HKCTU mobilized its members to participate in various rallies such as the ones held on 9 June and 16 June, which were attended by 1 million and 2 million people respectively. On 12 June, the day of the planned resumption of the second reading of the bill, the HKCTU appealed to workers to join the protest, where hundreds of businesses closed and many workers took leave for the day. However, the protest resulted in violent clashes between the protestors and the police. Hundreds of tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds were shot at the protestors and the excessive force used by the police severely strained the relationship between the police and the general public.
Under immense public pressure, the Hong Kong Government suspended the bill on 15 June but refused to withdraw it. Thus, the HKCTU initiated a workers strike on 17 June to continue demanding the total withdrawal of the bill; retraction of all references to the 12 June protest being a riot; release all arrested protesters; and accountability of police officers who used excessive force. The strike was supported by international trade unions such as the ITUC, IUF, AFL-CIO, UNIFOR, CGT, and Conlutas Brazil and joined by several hundred workers at the strike rally.
On 9 July, Chief Executive Carrie Lam pronounced the extradition bill "dead", using an ambiguous Cantonese phrase (壽終正寢) that may be translated as "dying a peaceful death." Lam gave no assurances, however, that the bill would be completely withdrawn, or that any of the other aforementioned demands of protestors would be addressed. Thus, the HKCTU will continue to unite all workers in Hong Kong in defending our civil rights and liberties until justice prevails.
Workers involvements in Anti-Extradition Bill Movement:
- The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions appealed to workers to lay down they work and join in the protest against tabling of the bill in the Legislative Council. Hundreds of businesses closed and many workers took leave to support;
- The Professional Teachers Unions launched a student strike in support;
- Three social workers unions launched a general strike and called on all members to participate the anti-extradition bill demonstration;
- The New World First Bus Company Staff Union launched a work-to-rule campaign and called on members to wear masks while on duty in support of the movement;
- The Hospital Authority Staff Union issued a statement to protest against alleged police obstructions on medical staff to treat injured protestors. The Union criticized the alleged disclosure of patient privacy to the police by the Hospital Authority.
- HKCTU called for a workers strike to demand the withdrawal of the Extradition Bill., The strike was supported by a number of international unions, while hundreds of workers attended the strike rally organized by the HKCTU
- The HKCTU launched the Black Monday campaign and called on all workers to wear black shirts on Mondays in support of the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement
- The HKCTU and New World First Bus Company Staff Union issued statements to condemn the police and the government for condoning violent attack on peaceful protestors perpetuated by local gangster