In this month of May 2020, when the general lock-down has made the celebration of May Day virtually impossible, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a region of the People’s Republic of China, has summoned Lee Cheuk-Yan, General Secretary of the HKCTU trade union federation, to court under the charge of “participating in a public demonstration on August 31, 2019, which violated the Decree on public order of Hong Kong”.
The decree that the Carrie Lam government is using is the upshot of the emergency rules which the British colonial government had issued against the seamen’s strikes back in 1922 and the 1967 workers’ strikes. It is in the name of this public order that over 7,000 demonstrators have been arrested since June 2019 and 1,000 have already been sentenced!
Lee Cheuk-yan appeared in court on May 5 and is summoned again to appear on May 18. When tens of thousand workers have been laid-off or out of jobs in Hong Kong, and millions are unemployed on the mainland, the right to defend one’s interests is a vital need for workers. And it is not by chance that dozens of unions, independent from the ruling powers, have been formed in Hong Kong during the actions over the past few month, demanding the withdrawal of a bill that threatens democratic rights.
At all times, in every country, workers have fought and are fighting to secure the right to make demands, demonstrate, strike, build their own organisations independently from the powers-that-be, from the bosses or the leaderships.
Back in June 1925, it was the Chinese workers of Hong Kong and Canton who, through a massive strike, demanded the freedom of speech, of association and demonstration and thus gave it full significance to the creation of the ACFTU, which had just held its constitutive convention on the 1st of May. How could the working- class movement accept that, almost a century later, the very same rights should still be so undermined?
The China Inquiry Commission, which for close to 30 years has fought for the right of Chinese workers to organise as they wish and had Lee Cheuk-yan as guest of honour at its recent banquet in Paris in October 2019, asserts firmly:
No sentence must be passed on trade union activist Lee Cheuk- yan!
The China Inquiry Commission calls on the international working- class movement to say loud and clear that any sentence against him must be banned, and it places this demand upon the Hong Kong authorities.
We, the undersigned, demand that all the charges against trade union activist Lee Cheuk-yan be dropped.
Down with the criminalisation of trade union action!