'It's a heart-broken decision'
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKTCU) has announced that it will disband, with most of its staff members to be laid off in the next two months. The group, which is Hong Kong's largest independent trade union, announced that its affiliates passed a motion on Sunday to officially disband HKCTU.
"Most of the staff members of HKCTU and its training centres will be laid off in the next two months," the union said in a statement on Facebook. "Regarding our assets, we shall offer staff members a compensation package above the statutory requirements, and provide grassroots affiliates with rental and secretarial support, so that they can adapt to the impact of HKCTU’s disbandment quickly. After other necessary expenses, the remainder of the assets shall be divided among all the affiliates."
The group did not elaborate in its statement the reason for breaking up, but its vice chairman Leo Tang told Channel News Asia that the disbandment was due to "political uncertainty."
"In the meeting, all our affiliates made the hard decision. It's a heart-broken decision," he told Channel News Asia.
The breaking up of HKCTU officially adds it to the list of groups that disbanded this year, which Reuters tallied to at least 29. The growing disbandments took place following the passing of China's sweeping national security law, which reportedly left unions in fear of violating the legislation. The law seeks to punish secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces, BBC reported. HKCTU has been accused of some pro-Beijing media of "colluding with foreign forces," Channel News Asia reported, because of its connection with the International Trade Union Confederation. However, both groups have denied such allegations.
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Tang also told reporters that members of the union have been receiving threats to their safety, but did not elaborate on it. Despite its breaking up, the HKCTU said it remains hopeful that worker resistance will not disappear.
"The end of HKCTU is indeed a huge blow to the independent labour movement. Nevertheless, we are highly faithful that the workers’ power of resistance will not therefore fade away," it said on Facebook.
The group thanked its members who supported the union since its inception, adding that friendships made in the union will be "long lasting." The union admitted that it did not know when it could come back, but urged the people of Hong Kong to not worry, as members of the group will continue looking after one another.
"Finally, we wish to encourage fellow unionists and Hongkongers not to worry too much or feel depressed, for these are the times we need to put our willpower and wisdom to the test. Even without the institution of HKCTU in the future, I believe all the brothers and sisters who came to the meeting today will still take care of each other," it said.
The union, which is an umbrella group of 75 unions, was established in 1990, and has championed the rights of workers in Hong Kong by fighting for higher sick leave compensations, improving maternity leave, and other benefits, according to Channel News Asia.