Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy labour union votes to disband

Hong Kong (AFP) –


Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy labour coalition voted to disband Sunday, blaming threats to its leadership's safety as China imposes a sweeping clampdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous city.

The Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) has long advocated for labour rights and democracy in one of the world's most overworked and income-polarised cities, but like much of Hong Kong's opposition it has been hit hard by a draconian new national security law.

Its leadership decided to put the group's future to a vote two weeks ago, amid what chairman Wong Nai-yuen said were mounting "threats on the leadership's personal safety" and former chief organiser Mung Siu-tat's decision to resign and flee the city.

The union voted to disband at an emergency general assembly on Sunday afternoon.

"If the authorities focus only on eliminating people who raise questions instead of solving the problems, they might feel powerful for a while but this country and this place won't have any hopeful future," Wong said, lamenting the "grave setback for the independent labour movement."

Vice chairman Leo Tang said the decision was "rational but reluctant".

"We have no regrets about walking alongside workers," he said.

Chinese state media and pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong have in recent weeks stepped up accusations that the CTU represented a "foreign agent" -- charges which can lead to life imprisonment under the Beijing-imposed security law.

The CTU is one of over 50 civil society groups to be disbanded since the imposition of the law last year, according to an AFP tally, with many of Hong Kong's most prominent activists now in jail or forced into exile.

And in a sign of the authorities' confidence in having quashed the opposition, Hong Kong's government Sunday said it would remove protective barriers on its headquarters and other official premises in place since the often violent pro-democracy protests of 2019.

"Hong Kong will fully resume the normal state of safety," Chief Secretary John Lee said, hailing the "national security law and the principle of 'patriots administering Hong Kong'" for the change.