A May Day without a solidarity march is yet another example highlighting how the Hong Kong National Security Law has taken away fundamental rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.
The cancellation of this year’s May Day marches came after top Chinese official Xia Baolong, the director of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, stated that “protesting is not the only way to express demands” during his visit to Hong Kong on 15 April at the National Security Education Day opening ceremony.
Xia also warned of individuals who exploit livelihood issues to “manipulate” and “hijack” protests and instigate social strife.
Soon after Xia’s speech, pro-Beijing trade union, The Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions withdrew their protest application, while another pro-Beijing union, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said that they had no intention to organise Labour Day march this year.
However, the two pro-democracy trade unionists, Joe Wong and Danny To, both ex-HKCTU members who submitted an application to organise a Labour Day March earlier, showed no sign of backing down.
The two filed their application on April 9 for a Labour Day march from Causeway Bay to Victoria Park in Hong Kong. The application was delayed longer than normal. On 21 April, the two met with police to discuss details of the march. After the meeting, they said on their Facebook page that the police questioned them about their finances, along with some “hypothetical” questions, such as, who the march’s target participants are, how they would identify attendees and showed them the comments posted on their Facebook page. The two stressed that they were organising on their own and had no affiliation with either international or local trade unions or labour organisation. They openly urged the police not to exaggerate the possibility of the protest being “hijacked”.
On April 26, Denny To announced on the protest’s Facebook page that Joe Wong had gone missing. To issued another message on Facebook four hours later, stating Wong had regained his freedom. Wong was not arrested but he did sign a letter calling off the march. However, according to the confidentially restriction in Article 63 of the National Security Law, they were unable to provide any more information.
To said Wong was “mentally disturbed” and “had tried everything to defend the right to protest”. “I understand and support his decision,” To said in the statement, and I hope Hong Konger will continue to support the values in which we believe.”
The May Day march could be traced back to the 8-hour workday movement in 19th-century Chicago. A century has passed, legislation to regulate on the maximum working hours is still missing in Hong Kong, and the freedom to express such a demand is denied. The Hong Kong National Security Law does not allow for a demonstration calling for social and economic concerns, nor does it allow workers to exercise their basic right to peaceful assembly and expression.
April 9: Joe Wong and Danny To, both ex-HKCTU members, submitted an application to organise a Labour Day March
April 15: Top Chinese official overseeing Hong Kong affiars, Xia Baolong, stated that “protesting is not the only way to express demands”
April 17: Pro-Beijing trade union, the Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said they had no plan to organise a May Day March
April 21: Joe Wong and Danny To met with police to discuss protest details. The two later said on their Facebook page that the police raised question on their finances, who the march’s target participants are, how they would identify attendees and showed them the comments posted on their Facebook page.
Around 7:30 am HKT: Danny To published a statement on Facebook page saying Joe Wong went missing
Around 11:30 am HKT: Danny To published the second statement on Facebook Page saying Joe Wong regained freedom and had signed a document to call off the protest.