Hong Kong: ITUC condemns prosecution of trade unionists and activists

photo: ALEXANDER MAK NurPhoto via AFP

The ITUC strongly condemns the mass conviction of trade unionists and civil society activists in Hong Kong under the repressive National Security Law (NSL).

Forty-seven pro-democracy defenders, including Carol Ng, Chair of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), and Winnie Yu, President of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA), were arrested under charges of conspiracy to subversion for taking part in preliminary elections in 2020 to select candidates for the Legislative Council elections.

Fourteen of them who had pleaded not guilty, including Winnie Yu, were convicted last week.

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “We call for the immediate release of all trade union leaders, members and activists who have been unfairly detained by this unjust law. The prosecution of trade unionists for their legitimate activities under the guise of national security is a gross violation of international labour standards.”

Since its enactment on 1 July 2021, the NSL has been used to severely inhibit the rights of working people and trade unions:

  • In total 292 individuals have been arrested under the law, with 195 prosecuted and 71 convicted.
  • Carol Ng and Winnie Yu have been detained without bail for more than three years.
  • The HKCTU and the HAEA were forced to disband in 2021 and 2022 under the repressive law on national security.
  • The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) has repeatedly called for the release of Carol Ng and Winnie Yu and stated that their prolonged detention impedes the exercise of trade union rights.

Luc Triangle continued: "We demand the immediate release of Carol Ng, Winnie Yu and all other trade unionists who have been unjustly detained. Trade union rights are human rights; they are fundamental democratic rights and they must be upheld."

The ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) in 2021 urged the Hong Kong government to ensure that trade union activities are conducted without fear of arrest or prosecution. They also called for a review of the NSL’s impact on workers’ rights.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also expressed concern over ongoing trials and arrests, highlighting that the detention of trade unionists without trial contravenes the principles of freedom of association.

Luc Triangle concluded: “The ITUC continues to stand in solidarity with the workers of Hong Kong and calls on the international community to compel the Hong Kong government to respect the fundamental rights of workers and trade unionists.”