(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy labor organization said it plans to disband amid growing concern that it will be targeted by the government for allegedly violating the national security law.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, a 145,000-member group, on Thursday evening passed a motion to start the process of disbanding, the group’s president, Joe Wong, said at a press conference on Sunday.
“Under the new circumstances, we are fully aware there’s no longer room for existence of our union,” Wong said. “If we continue operation, we may risk our members’ personal safety.”
The group is the latest pro-democracy civil organization to start shutting down in the face of growing pressure from authorities on groups that supported anti-government protests in 2019, and reports in Chinese state media that they may have violated the city’s sweeping national security law, enacted last June.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, which had about 100,000 members, disbanded last month 10 days after China’s official Xinhua News Agency denounced it as a “malignant tumor,” and Hong Kong Police Commissioner Raymond Siu said he would investigate the union. The Civil Human Rights Front, organizer of the pro-democracy marches that drew almost two million people in 2019, and prisoners’ rights group Wall-Fare, both ceased operations on concern they would be targeted by authorities.
Voting on the Confederation of Trade Unions process to disband will take place at a special meeting on Oct. 3, and in a scenario where the group doesn’t get sufficient votes to disband, its way of operating would have to be deliberated, it said.
The HKCTU was founded in 1990 by former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, who also served as the union’s general secretary. In April, Lee was sentenced to 14 months’ jail for attending an unauthorized protest and this month he was charged under the national security law. The group’s president, Carol Ng, was charged under the security law several months earlier.
The confederation, founded 31 years ago, aligned itself with city’s pro-democracy movements and opposed a 2019 extradition bill, which in part sparked the city’s historic protests. The HKCTU supported a mass strike by workers in opposition to the bill.
“We firmly believe in independent trade unionism and we are independent of any regime or consortium. We believe that the unity of workers can reverse the injustice of society,” reads the organization’s motto on its website.
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