Wed, Jun 12, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Hong Kong facing rare strikes over bill

EXTRADITION:Trade unions and student associations called for strikes and protests today, while local firms said they would suspend work or allow flexible work hours

Bloomberg

Hong Kong braced for rare strikes and further protests amid an escalating standoff over a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Local companies said they would suspend work or allow flexible office hours today to accommodate workers planning to demonstrate near the territory’s Legislative Council (Legco), which is to meet to debate amendments.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, a pro-democracy labor group, and several student associations urged members to join the strike and reprise a protest Sunday that drew of hundreds of thousands.

The Legco was expected to gather at about 12 noon to consider changes proposed by opposition lawmakers. The body’s leader closed off the area outside the chamber — a popular protest site known as the Drum — after scuffles in that area early on Monday morning.

Opponents want Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) to withdraw the legislation and threatened to organize a bigger, general strike on Monday next week to keep up the pressure.

“We are calling on Hong Kong people to come and join our protest rally right outside LegCo,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo (毛孟靜) said at a news conference with other protest organizers. “When we will call this off is up to Carrie Lam. If she doesn’t scrap this controversial extradition bill, Hong Kongers will fight on.”

Lam canceled a monthly legislative question-and-answer session that was to take place at 11am.

Her popularity fell to its lowest rating since she took power in 2017, according to a survey by Hong Kong University’s Public Opinion Programme.

The poll, which was taken before Sunday’s protests, saw her approval rating plunge to a record low 43 points, down from 64 points the week she assumed office.

Hong Kong-listed Most Kwai Chung said in a Facebook post that it would close business for the day, because “Hong Kong is sick” and they “wish Hong Kong will get well soon.”

Law firm Vidler & Co Solicitors said it had notified all employees that “in the event they wished to act in accordance with their conscience” and not attend work today to go on strike against the bill, the firm would support their actions.

While the potential scale of the strike was difficult to assess, one unconfirmed list of participating companies circulating online had grown to 1,000 mostly local firms by late afternoon. People claiming to be airline crews and teachers urged strikes in their own organizations online.

A number of the almost 1,400 multinational corporations with regional offices in Hong Kong, such as the global accounting company Deloitte, gave employees the option of working from home or at offices away from the protest site.

Hong Kong’s government is working to pass the law, which would for the first time allow extraditions with mainland China, before the end of the current legislative session ends next month.

Critics say the proposal risks undermining the autonomy China guaranteed Hong Kong before handover, as well as its status as a global financial center, while the government says it needs to prevent the territory from becoming a haven for fugitives.

Although the legislation was expected to easily pass the city’s legislature, which is dominated by Beijing loyalists, the opposition had introduced scores of amendments to undermine or slow the proposal’s approval.

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