Over mid-July, Hong Kong has been in a stand-off. The Chinese regime’s National Security Law (NSL) is now in force in Hong Kong. Its powers far exceed the Extradition Bill that was thrown out last autumn after street protests.
Yet radicals in the democratic camp won the unofficial primaries in which over 600,000 Hong Kong people took part. Those who won say they will resist the NSL. So far, despite threats, the democratic candidates have not been arrested, nor have they been barred from standing in September’s elections.
That was the background to the online rally of Labour Movement Solidarity with Hong Kong (UK) on 18 July.
The rally was addressed by the courageous General Secretary of the HK Confederation of Trade Unions, Lee Cheuk Yan. Lee is facing seven charges already for incitement and illegal assembly. Each might each carry a sentence of five years — and that is before any charges under the NSL are made.
Also speaking were Stephen Kinnock, Labour Front Bench minister for the Far East and China; Labour MPs John McDonnell and Nadia Whittome; writer Paul Mason; and Promise Li of the HK-based leftist grouping Lausan; RMT [rail union] activist Becky Crocker; and others. All welcomed Labour’s clear denunciation of the repression in Hong Kong. McDonnell says this has taken us back to “first principles” – as he put it, “we need to remind people of our history in opposing Stalinist bureaucracies”.
Despite the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) acting as a state agency to control workers more than a union, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, for example, supplies the ACFTU affiliate in Hong Kong with offices and money, whilst the HKCTU union that has organised the big dock strike of 2013 receives nothing.
Lee and Paul Mason pointed to the JASIC dispute of 2018 in Shenzhen where a unionisation campaign was smashed with the complicity of the ACFTU.
Li made reference to an “active disinformation campaign” to favour the ACFTU. Mason pointed to the output of the Morning Star which “helps the fully authoritarian state of China stay in power”.
The Morning Star just the day before had criticised left MPs Claudia Webbe and John McDonnell as “parroting Trump’s anti-China cold war rhetoric”.
McDonnell had condemned China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and Webbe had criticised police violence in Hong Kong. The article called McDonnell’s comment “a histrionic denunciation”. Webbe was accused of not recognising that the HK protestors were all agents of the United States.
As Li said in the rally, “reaction in the Hong Kong movement should be condemned but not with apologies for the brutality of the Chinese state”.
Many speakers pointed out the openly capitalist nature of China and the long close relationship between UK corporations, finance capital, and the Chinese Communist Party. As McDonnell said it is “very much centred in the City of London.”
All speakers, including Stephen Kinnock, were clear that in opposing to the actions of China in Hong Kong we must also reject xenophobic and right wing rhetoric.
Becky Crocker reported on action by RMT members to make direct links with their Hong Kong sisters and brothers after a union rep was sacked by Cathay Pacific.
Other spoke of blockades of teargas suppliers by Extinction Rebellion activists in Derbyshire; collaboration in the US between Hong Kong and Black Lives Matter activists, talking about their common experiences at the hands of the police; action against corporations like HSBC profiting and collaborating with the regime. As Li said “building community engagement from the bottom up is the key to radical change”.
We are fighting both for the liberation of Hong Kong and for workers' rights across China and the world. Our cause is international and internationalist.