Hong Kong unions, students fail to get support for strikes

Planned strike against Beijing-backed national security law fell significantly short of 60,000 vote threshold.

    The planned national security law has alarmed foreign governments as well as democracy activists in Hong Kong, who were already concerned that Beijing was tightening its grip over the semi-autonomous city [Kin Cheung/AP]
    The planned national security law has alarmed foreign governments as well as democracy activists in Hong Kong, who were already concerned that Beijing was tightening its grip over the semi-autonomous city [Kin Cheung/AP]

    Pro-democracy labour unions and a student group in Hong Kong have not been able to garner enough support to hold strikes against looming national security legislation imposed by Beijing, in a blow for the Chinese-ruled city's protest movement.

    After a year of often-violent unrest, anti-government demonstrations have lost momentum due to higher risk of arrest, with recent rallies failing to receive police approval due to coronavirus restrictions on large crowds.

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    A strike was intended to open a new arena of resistance, but organisers said only 8,943 union members participated in a city-wide poll, falling short of the 60,000 threshold to go ahead, even as 95 percent of the votes were in favour.

    Separately, the Secondary School Students Action Platform said it would not initiate a class boycott, as they fell short of some of their targets for in-person votes.

    Voting took place on Saturday, and the results were announced around midnight.

    The unions represented almost two dozen industries, including aviation, transport, construction, technology and tourism.

    Most were formed in the past year as pro-democracy activists spearheaded the biggest push to unionise the laissez-faire, ultra-capitalist finance hub - where collective bargaining rights are not recognised - since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997.

    On Saturday, China announced details of the national security legislation, saying that Beijing will have overarching powers over its enforcement and signalling the deepest change to the city's way of life since the handover.

    The planned law has alarmed foreign governments as well as democracy activists in Hong Kong, who were already concerned that Beijing was tightening its grip over the semi-autonomous city.

    Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong have sought to reassure investors that the law will not erode the city's high degree of autonomy, insisting it will target only a minority of "troublemakers" who pose a threat to national security.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency