Over a hundred Hong Kong employers from across industry sectors have pledged to either suspend business or support employees who choose to strike on Wednesday against a controversial extradition bill.
The walkout comes after a mass rally on Sunday that organisers said drew around 1.03 million people to the streets over the government’s planned amendments to its rendition laws. Police said 240,000 attended at the protest’s peak. Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to back down on proposals the next day, prompting calls for further protests and industrial action.
Those who have decided to suspend business on Wednesday to oppose the extradition bill include Craft Coffee Roaster, transportation service CALL4VAN, retailer AbouThai – which said it will close all 13 of its stores – and NGO Life Workshop, in a move that aims to hit the core of the bustling financial hub.
Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) which organised Sunday’s march, said that he is pleased to hear about the labour strike, although the group did not explicitly call for such an action. He added that CHRF will host rallies every day until the Legislative Council debates the extradition bill.
Hong Kong’s government first proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight. The bill could pass before July, with democrats, lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses raising concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam warned against “radical action” on Tuesday morning.
“No civilised society would want to see young people pushed to commit radical action for such an important legal and policy issue,” she said. “I urge schools, parents, organisations, enterprises, unions to consider carefully – what good does it do for Hong Kong society, and our young people, by calling for such radical action?”
Lam was also referencing an episode late on Sunday when the largely peaceful rally turned violent as police tried to move protesters from around the legislative complex.
‘Refusing to back down’
The pro-democracy Civic Party on Monday called for a general strike and for people to attend a rally organised by CHRF on Wednesday.
Bleak House Books, an independent bookshop participating in the strike, said their employees stand in solidarity with other businesses who plan to strike: “Ah that pesky Hong Kong spirit is rearing its ugly head again. Refusing to back down in the face of adversity,” their statement read.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said at a CHRF press conference on Monday that the group were not urging people to risk their jobs when deciding to strike: “We’re not specifically making a call on anyone to just ignore his or her job. All we’re saying is that we wish Hong Kong people will do whatever they think appropriate, including calling in an ‘unavailability for job’ on Wednesday. Free will, free mind, after all,” she said.
Additionally, pro-democracy lawmaker Fernando Cheung said he is calling for social welfare sector workers to come out on Wednesday to stop the “terrible, draconian law.”
“We take the wellbeing of our users, many of them are in the vulnerable groups, as the first consideration. We would not want to adversely affect the wellbeing of those who we serve in the welfare sector.”
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