ITUC condemns Hong Kong administration for putting a bounty on the heads of human rights defenders and trade unionists

The ITUC has protested to the Hong Kong authorities, the ILO and the UN over its deep concern about the escalation in the climate of fear, intimidation, arrests, arbitrary prosecutions, threats for the exercise of trade union rights and civil liberties in Hong Kong.

In particular, the disproportionate and unwarranted extra-territorial application of the National Security Law to target trade unionists, human rights defenders and pro-democracy advocates by the Authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) undermines its commitment to fulfil their international obligations.

The ITUC has called on the HKSAR Chief Executive Officer to respect and fully implement the conclusions and recommendations of ILO supervisory bodies and UN Human Rights bodies, in law and practice, including those regarding the National Security Law.

And he has been urged to release all those arrested and imprisoned for allegations related to the exercise of civil liberties including freedom of assembly, expression, press and association and those participating in pro-democracy activities.

On 4 July 2023, the HKSAR authorities announced, under the National Security Law, the issuance of arrest warrants against eight human rights defenders and pro-democracy advocates and placed a bounty of HK$ one million on each of their heads.

ITUC Acting General Secretary Luc Triangle said: “We unequivocally deplore the HKSAR authorities’ criminalisation and securitisation of trade union and democracy-promoting activities. We consider it particularly egregious, especially given the risks to life and safety faced by trade unionists, human rights defenders and pro-democracy advocates around the world for their legitimate activities, that the HKSAR authorities approved and announced a bounty on the heads of these eight people for exercising their civil liberties or trade union rights.

“As a special administrative region of a member State of the ILO, China, the HKSAR is also obliged to respect and promote the fundamental principles and rights at work including freedom of association and treat with the utmost regard, the authoritative guidance of the ILO’s supervisory bodies.”

The ITUC letter of protest sets out the recent findings of the ILO and other UN bodies on the abuse of workers’ and trade union rights by the HKSAR. It says that seeking to apply the National Security Law in an extraterritorial manner and placing a bounty on the heads of pro-democracy advocates and human rights defenders for alleged crimes related to the exercise of civil liberties and trade union rights is an overreach and certainly not proportionate - its coercive and chilling effective is wide ranging. With the use of the National Security Law in this disproportionate and arbitrary manner, the HKSAR authorities are violating their obligations under the Constitution of the ILO and Convention 87.