Ming Lam Cho is an activist of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU). He has sent this information on the situation in Hong Kong and the strengthening of worker unions since last August’s general strike, as a contribution to the preparation of the World Conference against War and Exploitation next November.
Hong Kong is in a very critical situation. The first case of “internal” contamination – i.e., by a person who had not travelled to Mainland China – was announced a few days ago. The HKCTU and many other trade unions have asked for the complete closing of the border with China, but the Hong Kong government has refused, for political reasons.
The medical personnel trade unions of the public hospitals have called for strike. They have demanded a complete closing of the border, as well as demanding supplies of protective materials (such as masks), which are genuinely lacking. The hospital staff must buy their own. This is ridiculous for a place that is as developed as Hong Kong.
There have been over 6000 strikers. The strike lasted five days, from 3 to 7 February. This led the government to put fourteen-day quarantines in place. But as there is no one to control the enforcement of this measure, it has not been effective. Furthermore, the border has remained open in at least three places, including the airport. If the government does not take the necessary urgent measures to ensure the supplying of protective medical material, the unions are not excluding another call for strike.
Since last August’s general strike, many workers have been the object of repression. Simultaneously, there have been highly mobilised sectors during the strikes and demonstrations that were however not organized. Since the beginning of this period, over 100 new trade unions have been created, as in sectors such as finance, insurance, accounting, hotel and tourist guides. Workers have understood that a strike is a political instrument, a means for obtaining change.
The scope of this movement and the fact that the population’s complaints against the government have remained so strong have surprised us, even ourselves. We are deploying many efforts to help the workers to be able to organise. And we happily welcome all these new trade unions, whether they affiliate with the HKTCU or not. Here is what is very important: many workers are organising, in the aim of being able to launch a new and long-lasting strike in the future. It is not simply a question of the short-term, in order to protect themselves. Workers are setting up their trade unions and establishing plans, sometimes over two or three years, to win over the majority of their co-workers to the union. Workers are once again seeing strike as a means in the service of political objectives.
Interview conducted on February 13.