Hong Kong strike vote falls short after civil servants warned against taking part

By on 25/06/2020
Demonstrations against Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong have lost momentum in recent months, due to coronavirus and the higher risk of arrest. (Photo by Katherine Cheng via flickr).

Polls held by pro-democracy unions in Hong Kong – including those representing civil servants – have failed to secure the turnout required to legitimise strike action against a national security law being drafted by Beijing. The result comes after the Hong Kong administration warned civil servants that taking part in the vote would breach their code of conduct and would make it appear that “civil servants are against the government”.

Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen made the comments in a letter sent to government employees the day before the vote on 20 June. He told civil servants they “have a responsibility to support and implement the national security law.”

Hong Kong’s chief secretary of administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung had earlier told officials considering voting that the government “will not sit idly by for acts that blatantly damage the interest of society and the reputation of the civil service”.

Though 95% of those voting supported strike action, the number of participants fell far short of the threshold needed to pass the motion.

Security threats

Opponents fear that the law, which Beijing says is designed to prevent and punish subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference, is intended to crack down on Hong Kong’s freedoms.

The organisers of the vote – comprising more than 30 unions representing a number of industries – had predicted that 60,000 people would vote in the city-wide poll, and said 60% would need to be in favour of industrial action for it to go ahead. However, they conceded that the turnout was fewer than 9,000, meaning the threshold had not been met.

The Union for New Civil Servants had been involved in organising the vote. Of the 1,191 of its members who took part, 99% agreed that the security law “will potentially affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents”, while 96% agreed to the setting up of a fund to implement strike action. The vote also included a question about the government’s decision to freeze civil service pay in 2020-2021: 85% of the union’s voters were against the decision, and 80% agreed to strike action opposing it.  

The union thanked those who participated and said that although the threshold was not met, the result “reflected the intention of colleagues” and that it would consider using other channels to express their views.  

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *