Hong-Kong (China)

5

No guarantee of rights

Same as last year

Workers' rights violations

Right to civil liberties

Lee Cheuk Yan, the general secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), together with seven others, was sentenced on 12 December 2021 to 14 months in prison for “inciting, organising and participating” in a candlelight vigil on 4 June 2020. The annual event, to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, was organised by the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, of which Lee Cheuk-yan was the chair. The sentence will run concurrently with the 20-month prison sentence Lee Cheuk-yan was already serving for organising and participating in pro-democracy rallies in 2019.

Right to civil liberties

In Hong Kong, five members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists (GUHKST), including the union chair and vice chair, Li Wenling and Yang Yiyi, were arrested on 22 July 2021. Their phones, computers and trade union leaflets were taken away by the police, and the union’s bank account and assets were frozen. According to the police, they had “conspired to publish, distribute, exhibit or copy seditious publications”. Both Li and Yang were prosecuted, remanded and denied bail. The other three members were granted bail. In the hearing on 30 August, the judge remanded all five union officers in custody pending their next hearing on 24 October 2021.

The “seditious” publications were three illustrated e-books for children with speech problems published by the union in 2020 and explaining Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movements of 2019 and 2020. Sedition is a crime under a colonial-era law and carries up to two years in jail. Since the democracy protests, police and prosecutors have begun regularly using the sedition law, along with the National Security Law, to clamp down on political speech and views.

Right to trade union activities

Since 2021, the Hong Kong authorities have increased pressure on independent unions to either fall in line or disband, while the Registrar of Trade Unions has methodically summoned independent trade unions on frivolous motives and has opened de-registration proceedings.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) announced in September 2021 that it was preparing to disband after 31 years of leading the democratic trade union movement in the region. In the month’s leading up to the decision, the HKCTU and its member organisations had faced unprecedented attacks, intimidation and allegations of offences under the 2020 National Security Law. The personal safety of union leaders had also been threatened. On 3 October 2021, members backed a resolution to cease operations by a vote of 57 to eight, with two abstentions, at an extraordinary general meeting.

In 2022, the Hong Kong independent trade union movement and pro-democracy movement were all but silenced as many unions were forced to disband or arbitrarily deregistered, including the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists (GUHKST); the Hospital Authority Employees’ Alliance (HAEA); the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU); the Union of New Civil Servants (UNCS); Medicine Inspires; the Hong Kong Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Union; Hong Kong Educators’ Alliance; the Frontline Doctors’ Union; the Hong Kong Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Union; the Financial Technology Professional Services Personnel Union; and the Hong Kong Teaching and Research Support Staff Union and Next Media Trade Union (NMTU).

Right to collective bargaining

On 28 May 2021, the Swire Coca-Cola Hong Kong Beverages Employees’ General Union (SCBEGU) launched strike action in response to severe wage cuts. Management had ignored the union and the collective bargaining process entirely to cut wages and to change its pay structure. The SCBEGU was among the very few private sector unions that has exercised collective bargaining rights for over decades.

Workers’ rights in law

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