Hong Kong’s labour chief defends new national security rule for trade unions

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun says rule will apply to unions that have not completed registration process before Monday.

Hong Kong’s labour chief has defended a rule requiring founders of new trade unions to sign a declaration pledging they will not threaten national security, saying it is the government’s responsibility to monitor such matters.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han was referring to a new condition for setting up trade unions outlined by the government on Friday, under which founders would need to confirm the objectives of their group were lawful and the bodies would not engage in any activities that could endanger national security or contravene any other law.

“According to the national security law, government departments have the responsibility to strengthen the monitoring, guidance and public communication over matters concerning national security relating to social organisations,” Sun said on Saturday.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun.

“The amendment has made it clearer that all founders of trade unions must declare that they will abide by the law, which includes not threatening national security,” he said.

Under the new policy, Sun said union founders would also be required to submit their employment records from the past six months.

He added that the new rule would apply to unions that had started the registration process but had not completed it before next Monday.

Mung Siu-tat, who was the chief executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) before it disbanded, had earlier said the requirement would lead to political pressure on labour groups due to fears of vague “red lines”.

Mung Siu-tat, who served as chief executive of the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU) before it disbanded.

But pro-Beijing lawmaker Bill Tang Ka-piu, of the Federation of Trade Unions, had said all organisations had a responsibility to abide by the law.

A number of workers’ groups were formed in 2019 during the height of the anti-government protests in the city as Hongkongers looked for new ways to sustain the social movement.

But following Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in 2020, at least 62 such unions disbanded in the following year.

Among the organisations that dissolved were the CTU, the city’s biggest opposition alliance on workers’ rights, and the Professional Teachers’ Union, which was once Hong Kong’s largest group for educators with 95,000 members.