Speech at GMB congress 2023

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Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor’s Executive Director Christopher Mung attended GMB 34th Congress on 8 June 2023 and gave the speech below.

Dear Sisters and Brothers of GMB, dear comrades of the international labour movement, 

I am very grateful to the GMB for inviting me to attend this congress and having me to share with you the grave situations of Hong Kong labour movement. As a former member of HKCTU in exile, I feel a responsibility to come here and speak out the truth that Hong Kong people on the ground cannot tell. 

As everyone knows, in China, workers are not allowed to form their own trade unions, and all the trade unions must be subordinated to the only official federation ACFTU dictated by the Chinese Communist Party. Until everything changes, Hong Kong was the only place where free trade unions can be established. Fighting for independent and democratic labor movement is my life-long mission. I have committed myself into the movement for 26 years before I left Hong Kong. Thirty three years ago, the HKCTU was set up as the only independent workers federation in Hong Kong and even in China, representing the significant breakthrough in returning the power of the trade unions to the workers. Today I sadly tell you that our confederation cannot exist anymore under the intensive political attack. Our mission has experienced a grave frustration. Although our confederation now was dissolved, however, I strongly believe that our spirit fighting for workers’ dignity and democracy will remain alive! 

Over the past three decades, we have not only defended the workers’ rights, but also struggled constantly for freedom and democracy under an authoritarian state. For the long time, we were the only workers federation in Hong Kong, speaking out for human rights abuses, fighting for universal suffrage, and insisting on mourning the victims of June Fourth Massacre every year. During the 2019 anti-extradition movement, we took to the streets with the Hong Kong people, gathering 1 million, 2 million people in the rallies, and launched a political strike involving more than 300,000 people demanding freedom and democracy. Democracy is the soul of the trade union movement, and only democracy can bring true respect and protection to the working class. Despite facing the setbacks and crackdowns, we have no regrets in our pursuit of democracy.    

After the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020, our fighting for democracy was condemned as “conspiring to subvert the country”, our links with international trade unions were accused of “collusion with foreign forces”. Our general secretary Lee Cheuk Yan and our Chairperson Carol Ng were charged against the national security law. Until now, they have been imprisoned for more than two years. Some of our core members were taken away by national security polices for investigations again and again. I myself was interviewed three times in a month by the Chinese government agents to question me about the financial sources and the external linkages with foreign organizations. The risk of arrest became increasingly imminent, so I was forced to leave Hong Kong and embark on the road of exile.  

Until today, more than 250 people have been arrested under the crime of endangering national security, most of them are leaders of democratic movement, student activists, human right defenders and trade unionists. They have done nothing to endanger the country but to exercise their  freedom and basic rights enshrined in the law. Who is endangering the country? Who is putting the people at risks ? Who is breaking the law ? That is not us, that is the dictators! 

Despite facing such repressive crackdown, the people on the ground in Hong Kong have not given up, and even for those in prison have not surrendered to power. As Brother Lee Cheuk-yan said in a prison letter, “I will insist that fighting for democracy is not a crime.” On June 4 last year, he used the matches in replace of candles and went on hunger strike in prison to mourn the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Although HKCTU was dissolved, some of former affiliated unions still make every efforts to survive. They are very cautious not to fall into the traps set up by the authorities. They are lacking recourses and manpower without the support given by the umbrella organization. Nevertheless, they are still struggling every day to preserve the only voices of independent unions in the workplaces. Despite the political pressures, some labour activists have also shown their courage by trying to organize Women day and May day rallies this year. At the end, they failed to do so as they were threatened by the National Security Polices to cancel their rallies. However, their courage has shed the light on the dark for the people who are suffering from dictatorship. As the May Day statement released by these labour activists said that ‘’living under the dictatorship, the most important thing is not to obey in advance’’.  

Under the threat of national security law, it is almost impossible for the people on the ground to speak out the truth to the outside world. The Chinese government intends to isolate the labour movement by cutting off all the international concerns and support from outside. Therefore some of the Hong Kong labor activists living in exile including myself,  formed the “Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor” based in UK, hoping to bring the voice of Hong Kong workers to the international community and seek the solidarity support for our brothers and sisters who are still fighting very hard on the ground.  

In fact, the Chinese authoritarianism is not only destroying Hong Kong, but also exporting their models of workers exploitations and human rights suppression to the other countries, threatening the safety and democracy in the regional and global level. Unfortunately, there is a worrying tendency in the international community to ignore the Chinese government’s suppression of workers’ and human rights, putting the interests of economy and trading over the people. It is an ongoing struggle between democracy and totalitarianism. Today, we are being surrounded by the authoritarian power globally from China, Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Cambodia to many many others. They have been supporting each other and expanding their influences over different international platforms. It is time for the international labour movement to get united and fight back together.   

With your support, we will continue our struggle until we win the freedom and democracy the Hong Kong people deserve. With your support, we strongly believe that one day the independent and democratic workers federation will be rebuilt again in Hong Kong and in China.  No one knows when the days will come,  but one thing is certain: our values and beliefs will live longer than the ones of dictatorships! As the slogan on the T-shirt I am wearing, saying that : “Constant dripping can wear away a stone!” 

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