Working Life
umbrella revolution

Hong Kong unions the target of foreign whispers


Creative Commons License
We believe in the free flow of information, and content on Working Life is available to be republished online or in print under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
By Andrew Casey

Asia/Pacific Editor for LabourStart

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

THE Hong Kong ‘Umbrella Revolution’ democracy protests have entered a dangerous new period.

The street occupation protests are now in their fourth week and on Sunday we saw some of the most violent battles in working class Mong Kok.

Just as talks were set to start on Tuesday between the regime and the students the rhetoric has been ratcheted up about sinister foreigners behind the protests.

The hated Hong Kong leader CY Leung, for the first time, at least publicly, has repeated the Beijing line about  “external forces” involvement in the territory’s pro-democracy protests.

The first target of any repression will probably be the independent trade unions, the HKCTU unions, affiliated to the global International Trade Union Confederation, and the working class Mong Kok district of Hong Kong.

Already anonymous emails posted to Hong Kong media last week, with hacked data from the Hong Kong independent unions’ computers, have been pushing the line that the HKCTU and Hong Kong Labour Party are controlled by foreign forces.

The HKCTU have responded to the ugly claims the in the leaks. And the supporters of the democracy protests says CY Leung must provide concrete evidence to back up his foreign influences claims.

Meanwhile the Solidarity Center – the aid agency arm of the US national union centre the AFL-CIO funded by both union member monies and US government grants through the National Endowment for Democracy ( much like the ACTU’s APHEDA)  – has outlined what projects it has supported financially at the HKCTU in recent times:

 $US 262,179 Occupational Safety and Health Program;
 $US 473,290 Enhancing the Rule of Law in Employment;
 $US 150,031 Expanding Worker Rights and Democracy

First talks were held last night between the student leaders and the Hong Kong government but – as expected – were inconclusive, ending without any breakthrough.

After last night’s  talks the key Hong Kong union leader supporting the democracy street protests, Lee Cheuk Yan, was reported as praising the student delegation.

But Lee warned the talks failures would “hardens people’s determinations because no one is happy with the result. So I think this talk will only lead to a more determined occupation movement”.

Business elite and Communist Beijing allied

The Hong Kong business elite have always opposed democracy, afraid that universal suffrage will empower working peoples’ voices in the local legislature.

It has been convenient for them that the ‘communists’ who control Beijing prefer an alliance with the elite rather than the working class.

The Beijing-appointed Hong Kong leader CY Leung told the New York Times that the democracy demands were unacceptable because it risked giving poorer residents a dominant voice in politics.

Recent appearance at the working class Mong Kok democracy sites of Chinese Triad gangs is concerning; historically political and business elites have paid these gangs to attack union leaders, break up labour strikes and worker protests.

In an earlier round of police violence the HKCTU leader Lee Cheuk-yan – who is also the leader of the Labour Party in the local legislature said: “Hong Kong police have gone insane today, carrying out their own punishment in private. Hong Kong’s values and its rule of law really have been completely destroyed by police chiefs”.

The HKCTU – though the smaller of two local union federations – has led the most active pro-democracy unions, and been involved in some militant workplace actions in recent years, most famously a dock workers strike in 2013.

Meanwhile unions from the larger, pro-Beijing union federation the HKFTU, have organised protests against the street occupations demanding democracy.

Workers’ rights, democratic rights inseparable

The HKCTU has been a key bulwark of support for the Umbrella Revolution because they see the connection between the struggle for universal suffrage and the struggle for workers’ rights.

“Trade unions, have been fighting for regulation on working hours and universal retirement pensions. All of the fundamental workers’ rights are rejected by the undemocratic government and legislative council,” Mung Siu Tat a key leader of the HKCTU explains.

“We believe that workers’ rights and democratic rights cannot be separated.

“If you want to improve the working conditions, we have to fight for our democratic rights, we have to change the government from undemocratic to democratic government, which can really represent people’s opinion.”

Read more about the Hong Kong protests and the unions on Hong Kong LabourStart. This article was first posted on UnionBook and has been republished with the permission of the author.

Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.


Creative Commons License
We believe in the free flow of information, and content on Working Life is available to be republished online or in print under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *