CHINA “The Strike as an Efficient Means for Imposing Social Change” Ming Lam, head of international relations at the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), speaks out

The current situation is the result of the government’s will not to respond to the demands of the population, and particularly not to withdraw the draft bill on extradition. From that point, the citizens called for the organisation of another general strike. Being the largest independent trade union confederation, the HKCTU has totally supported this call. On August 5th, we called on all our trade unions and all our members to organise the strike. 

There have been 7 demonstrations: approximately 350,000 workers were on strike. 290,000 participated in the demonstrations. 

The civil aviation union organised the strike. Over 200 flights were cancelled. 

The social services union, the bus drivers’ union and the teachers’ union all called for the strike, as did the underground employees union. Seven of the nine Hong Kong underground lines were paralysed by the movement of the demonstrators, and also by the striking workers. Even the Hong Kong Disneyland union succeeded in disrupting service. 

This is the first political strike in many years. Many rank-and-file workers were on strike, or stopped working. And that is an important success. It has put significant pressure on the government, which was forced to call a press conference in the afternoon. The stock exchange lost 5%. This shows everyone that not only can a strike have an important immediate effect, but also it is a lesson for the people: the strike is an efficient means for imposing social change. 

In China, in the absence of freedom of the press, the propaganda is trying hard to make believe that these demonstrations are about pro-independence. That is simply not true. Of course there are pro-independentists in the demonstrations. But the demonstrations are massively for the withdrawal of the draft bill on extradition, for civil liberties and human rights. Concerning the Chinese labour movement, most of the activists are either under surveillance or have already been arrested. This makes it extremely difficult to establish links. In Hong Kong, it is a whole new generation that is awakening, and that wants to make its voice heard. 