Our battle for Hong Kong labour rights on the global front

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Hong Kong Trade Union at Hong Kong Protest on Jan 1 2020

By Siu-Tat Mung, HKLRM Executive Director

Once together, we devoted ourselves to the independent labour movements and weathered countless worker struggles in the hope of building an equal and free society that respects workers.

Now, Hong Kongers are in exile. We have no choice but to flee and resettle in foreign lands.

Disheartened and defeated, we witnessed our beloved organizations disbanded one by one. Hong Kong’s freedoms are being chipped away. Our journeys to foreign lands are fraught with emotional lows.

Yet, our convictions hold strong. We unwaveringly believe that wherever there is oppression, there is resistance.

We spread the stories of our brave labour activists in Hong Kong to the UK, France, the USA, and Australia. We called for the global labour movement to constantly keep an eye on Hong Kong. We found strength in our solidarity. This is now our obligation in the free world: to tell the truth, to speak out for those in Hong Kong who are being silenced.

Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor Executive Director Mung Siu Tat speaking at CDFT congress on June 16, 2022.
HKLRM’s Executive Director Siu-Tat Mung at French Democratic Federation of Labour (CFDT) in June 2022。(Photo:CFDT)

Hong Kong is not alone in this fight for freedom. In the past two years, we have seen the political crackdown in Hong Kong repeated in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Authoritarianism is sweeping the world, but we are fighting back along with the global labour movement and civil society.

We are impartial to all governments. Our standpoint is clear: We connect workers across the world to support Hong Kong workers and their fight against the exploitations of capitalism and authoritarianism.

Labour movements must unite across borders in this era of globalisation. Here are some high points of global solidarity in the Hong Kong labour movement: In 2013, hundreds of dock workers working for Hutchison Whampoa went on strike to call for fair pay. Their action was supported by the respective unions in Australia and the Netherlands. In the past, when workers went on strike against Coca-Cola and Nestlé in Hong Kong, the International United Food Workers’ Associations chipped in and called out Coca-Cola and Nestlé’s headquarters, effectively leading to an agreement between the employer and the union.

Maritime Union of Australia joining Hong Kong dockers strike in 2013.(Photo: HKCTU)

Hong Kong civil society has long been an active member of the global civil society. From organising the 2005 global protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO) to boycotting exploitative transnational corporations and monitoring regional human rights violations, Hong Kong has taken an active role in driving the global labour movement.

With the Hong Kong National Security Law looming large, though, legitimate protests are now labelled as threats to “national security” and workers’ collaborations across borders are now framed as “colluding with foreign forces” in Hong Kong.

Civil society in Hong Kong is crumbling. Pressure groups have been forced to disband. Those who manage to survive are left with a restricted space to operate with difficulty. However, we are strong believers in the people’s power as we see resistance budding in different ways and forms in Hong Kong. The people of Hong Kong are finding ways to fight back against all the new restrictions and oppressions.

Civil society is beyond a form or an organization. The power of civil society lies in the people’s will to be independent of the government. Organisations might be dissolute, but connections between people prevail. Our common values and visions bond us. This bonding organises and guides us forward like a beam of light in the darkness. When there are people, there are light and hope.

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