Hong-Kong (China)


No guarantee of rights

Same as last year

Workers' rights violations

Right to civil liberties

General Secretary of International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF) and former Chief Executive of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Confederation of a Trade Unions (HKCTU), Elizabeth Tang Yin-ngor, was taken away by National Security Police officers on 9 March 2023, after visiting her husband, imprisoned union leader, Lee Cheuk-yan.

Tang was arrested on “suspicion that she had colluded with foreign forces to endanger national security”. Tang had recently returned to Hong Kong after leaving for the United Kingdom in 2021.

Her husband, former HKCTU general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan, is currently detained under the National Security Law. He and two other ex-leaders, Chow Hang-tung and Albert Ho, stand accused of incitement to subversion. The case was transferred to the High Court in September 2022, where the highest penalty for incitement to subversion is 10 years’ imprisonment. Lee was denied bail in December, when a judge ruled there were insufficient grounds for believing that he would not continue to “commit acts endangering national security” if bail was granted.

Tang was released the next day and her computer, mobile phone and passport remain confiscated.

In the week following Tang’s arrest, 13 trade union and labour organisation activists, including from the defunct HKCTU, were taken away by national security police for questioning. The police conducted home searches and took away the computers and mobile phones of the activists.

Right to civil liberties

National security police raided the offices of the disbanded Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) on the morning of 31 March 2022. The police also went to the homes of the former chair of the HKCTU, Joe Wong, former vice-chair Leo Tang and ex-treasurer Chung Chung-fai. All three were arrested, taken for questioning, and their homes were searched. Former general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan, who has been imprisoned for a year now for his trade union activities, was also questioned. The national security police also raided 10 premises, including the offices of the union and homes of the four unionists, and took away documents and computers.

The union had allegedly refused to comply with a police request for information based on the Societies Ordinance. They said the police had applied for warrants to search premises related to the organisation.

Police made the data request to HKCTU on 17 February, demanding information about its operations, activities, sources of income and expenditure, as well as any connections with fellow unions and foreign organisations. Five former HKCTU members, including Wong, Tang and Chung, had handed in the group’s reply at police headquarters on 24 March.

The HKCTU was Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy union coalition, representing almost 100 affiliated organisations with around 145,000 members, before its forced dissolution in October 2021.

Despite disbandment, the Security Bureau issued a statement saying any organisation or its members would “remain criminally liable” for offences committed.

Right to trade union activities

In Hong Kong, independent trade unions have been subject to information surveillance since the enactment of the National Security Law. Since 2021, 11 trade unions have been requested by the Registrar of Trade Unions to submit detailed information to account for their activities and the Registrar could initiate de-registration procedures if their activities are considered out of the scope of the registered purposes.

The government announced new rules for the registration of trade unions on 16 September 2022. Anyone in Hong Kong planning to set up a trade union would have to sign a declaration pledging they would not threaten national security. Union founders would need to confirm the objectives of their groups are lawful and the bodies would not engage in any activities that could endanger national security or contravene any other law. Given the number of unions that had already had to disband following the imposition of the National Security Law in 2020, this latest announcement caused deep concern.

In June 2022, the Labour Department proposed creating a new chief labour officer position for three years to assume the position of Registrar of Trade Unions. The registrar would be responsible for drafting amendments to the Trade Unions Ordinance, such as refusing or cancelling the registration of organisations “in the interest of national security” and prohibiting people who had been convicted of offences from endangering national security by becoming officials of workers’ groups.

The department planned to introduce the bill to the Legislative Council in the first half of 2023.

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