March 2021 Guest speaker, Dr Anita Chan

Dr Anita Chan kindly agreed to speak to us on “Hong Kong’s New Trade Union Movement”. Anita is an active member of the Vintage Reds. She is a labour sociologist and a visiting fellow at the ANU.

photo: Bell School, Australian National University

We include here a summary of Anita’s published article by the same title, as provided by the journal International Union Rights, no.4, vol.27, 2020.


Hong Kong’s New Trade Union Movement

For a whole year from mid-2019 to mid-2020, Hong Kong was rocked by mass demonstrations and street violence.

At its height, two million out of Hong Kong’s population of seven million marched in a huge demonstration against a proposed extradition bill. The international press heavily covered the mass protests; but what the press has not covered is the birth of a new trade union movement from within this political and social movement.

The protests, and the new unions, were led by a generation born a few years before and after 1997, the year when China gained sovereignty over Hong Kong, a British colony for 150 years. Hong Kong was to be governed by a constitution known as the Basic Law, which guaranteed that for the next fifty years Hong Kong’s neoliberal capitalist system and civil liberties would not be tampered with by China’s authoritarian regime.

It did not turn out this way. In the past two decades China gradually began to intervene in Hong Kong politically, instigating increasing resistance from the Hong Kong populace in the form of mass rallies. This led to the Umbrella Revolution of 2014 in which the central business district was occupied for months by protestors. When it was suppressed, the protesters left behind a huge banner declaring “We’ll Be Back!”

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