Newsletter January 2023

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In this newsletter: Our upcoming work in 2023; Submission to the UN Committee on ESCR ; Latest in HK

Our upcoming work in 2023

When asked if he still had hope for the future, former Czech dissident Václav Havel gave this answer: “Hope is not a conviction that something will turn out well, but a certainty that something has a meaning regardless of how it turns out.”

Havel made this statement during the darkest period under the authoritarian communist regime. It was beyond his wildest dreams that he would one day become the President of Czechoslovakia. These Czech dissidents had no idea the communist regime was on the verge of collapse. Nonetheless, they persisted. They were adamant about the importance of strengthening democracy. They were unyielding in their resolve.

It is beyond our capacity to predict whether the situation in Hong Kong will improve in 2023. What we can control is whether we stick to our convictions.

For HKLRM, 2023 promises to be an eventful year.

We will continue to expand our network with trade unions around the world. Our schedules are busier than last year. So far, we have received invitations from trade unions and trade confederations from Italy, France, Sweden, and Canada. We will continue to seize every opportunity to urge international trade unions to support Hong Kong trade unions and unionists behind bars.

International advocacy will be another focus of our work. The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will review the implementation of the respective covenant in Hong Kong. We have submitted our report and will continue to monitor and investigate the implementation of different human rights covenants in Hong Kong. 

You can also expect more in-depth policy research and analysis on Hong Kong labour rights from us this year, such as employment protection for casual workers and platform workers in Hong Kong and a 12-year evaluation of the implementation of the statutory minimum wage. 

Finally, we anticipate further court trials of trade unionists and political prisoners in Hong Kong, such as the HK47 case and the Hong Kong Alliance case. These political prisoners might be in jail, but their convictions are strong. We are planning a global solidarity effort to support the political prisoners in Hong Kong and garner more attention from the international community. 

This will be a year full of uncertainties and opportunities. We do not know how 2023 will play out, but one thing is certain: my colleagues and I will continue to stand with Hongkongers and build the year we envision. 

Christopher Mung
Executive Director,
Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor

International advocacy

Submission to The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

This month we made a submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) for its review of Hong Kong. Our report points out that the Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) poses a serious threat to the ESCR in Hong Kong. The report also highlights that the Hong Kong authorities violated the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our report underscores that the Hong Kong authorities violate individual rights to work and discriminate against individuals based on their political opinions. Examples include requiring civil servants to pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong government, disciplining teachers for their involvement in the 2019 Anti-Extradition Law Protests, and barring any person convicted of a national security offence from registering as a social worker for life.

Furthermore, at least 11 trade unionists have been arrested, prosecuted, convicted or sentenced since the NSL was implemented. The authorities also weaponised the Trade Unions Ordinance to suppress trade unions’ operations, including revoking the registration of The General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists. Many trade unions decided to disband or cease operations due to this chilling effect.

The report also condemns the authorities for failing to implement laws for standard working hours, collective bargaining, unemployment assistance, and universal retirement protection. These failures exacerbate Hong Kong’s wealth disparities.

The report includes 18 recommendations in five areas, including urging the authorities to repeal the NSL and take all necessary steps to ensure that workers’ rights to work are fully protected under the covenant.

The latest on Hong Kong labour rights

CX crew member industrial action

The Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union initiated a work-to-rule industrial action on 19 January. According to the union, the cabin crew face challenges including inadequate layover rest time, unfair roster arrangements and cuts in manpower. 

During the pandemic, the cabin crew endured a 14-36% permanent pay cut. However, Cathay Pacific’s top five managers combined earned HK$34,000,000 in 2021. The management also reprimanded the union, ordering it to leave the company’s office and cease collecting membership fees, halted regular meetings with the union, and refused to let executive members attend the union’s meetings. 

Photo: HKFP

This has been a wrap of our work this month. Please help us spread this email to your connections so that more people are aware of the recent developments in #HKLabourRights. Finally, do not forget to follow us on TwitterInstagram and Facebook to stay up to date on our current projects.

In solidarity,
Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor

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