ICFTU denounces new anti-human rights draft law in Hong Kong

Brussels, November 28 (ICFTU online): In a 28 November Executive Board statement on China, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) is joining the ICFTU-affiliated Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) in denouncing the profoundly undemocratic and anti-union nature of a new draft law proposed by the Hong Kong government.

"Article 23 of the new law would allow the Chinese government to ban any Hong Kong organisation deemed to be 'affiliated' to a mainland organisation classified as a threat to national security. Given that independent trade unions are categorized in this way in mainland China, this law threatens the very existence of free trade unionism in Hong Kong," explained Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the HKCTU.

Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government (CPG), or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies." In addition, the law encompasses the expansion of police power to enter any premises in order to conduct searches and seize materials without any court authorization. Lee says that "there is
clear potential for abuse, in terms of intimidation and harassment".

HKCTU members are deeply concerned that legitimate and day-to-day trade union activities will fall under the murky definition of Article 23, and the proposals will in effect become a political tool to stop legitimate trade union activity and silence political opposition.

A three-month consultation period on the "Proposals to Implement Article 23 of the Basic Law" began on 25 September. The ICFTU is concerned that the new law will be implemented fully by mid 2003, regardless of the views of the people of Hong Kong.

"The ICFTU is pledging full solidarity with its affiliates in Hong Kong, the only free trade unions in China. It is vital that they are able to continue to function without interference from the central Beijing authorities and business interests, and without erosion of protections for civil and political rights", said Guy Ryder, ICFTU General

See ICFTU statement on the proposal to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law in Hong Kong

*Editors' note [original]

China is among the most anti-union countries worldwide. The official trade union, the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is merely a branch of the autocratic government and independent trade unions are banned. Since the reunification of Hong Kong with China in 1997, the ICFTU has repeatedly criticised - in particular in its latest Annual Survey of trade union rights violations-anti-union discrimination in the country and the refusal by the government to put in place the legal instruments needed to guarantee collective bargaining rights.

(Source: ICFTU Online, November 29, 2002)

Related Resources:

Background information and discussion on the legislating of Article 23 compiled in Hong Kong

HKCTU’s statement on Article 23

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