Labour Day will once again be ‘protest-free’ in Hong Kong

Labour Day in Hong Kong is set to continue to be “protest-free” as the city’s largest workers’ union again dropped plans for a rally to mark the holiday.

Instead, the Federation of Trade Unions said on Sunday that it planned to arrange district visits for city leader John Lee Ka-chiu and his aides, including No 2 official Eric Chan Kwok-ki and Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han, to meet frontline workers and learn about their needs.

The pro-Beijing group also said it would mark Labour Day – the first since the enactment of the city’s domestic national security law – by issuing a joint statement with other unions on Wednesday and handing over proposals to officials at government headquarters over the next weekend.

Federation of Trade Unions president Ng Chau-pei and chairman Wong Kwok meet the press at its offices in To Kwa Wan. Photo: Jonathan Wong

It would also hold a banquet on Tuesday which Lee and central government envoys in the city were expected to attend.

“Staging a march is not the only channel to express our views. We have come up with more effective ways to promote labour rights and honour the spirit of Labour Day,” said federation president Stanley Ng Chau-pei, also a member of the government’s key decision-making Executive Council.

“We will be holding a series of activities in the coming week simply because that is what workers want. Not holding a march does not mean we are trying to avoid anything. We think those activities are more effective channels to let workers express their opinions.”

Meanwhile, a labour activist and former core member of the now-defunct democrat-friendly Confederation of Trade Unions said he had no plans to hold any protest on the May 1 holiday this year.

But former confederation chairman Joe Wong Nai-yuen said he would continue to fight for labour rights through other means.

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One of the recent focuses was how cleaners would be affected by the government’s new waste-charging scheme now postponed to August, Wong added.

While he applied to the force for a Labour Day protest last year, he eventually withdrew the request amid speculations he had been pressured by national security police to do so.

The pro-Beijing federation, with more than 420,000 members, also dropped its traditional Labour Day march last year and instead held a press conference to express its stances over various workers’ rights issues.

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Before Covid-19 struck, the holiday was considered an opportunity for residents and trade unions to voice concerns over labour rights, with many rallies of various sizes held across the city. But since Beijing imposed the national security law on the city in 2020, only a few rallies have been held in the city, all of them tightly controlled.



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