Hong Kong labor unions and students yesterday failed to amass enough support to strike against national security laws that China plans for the territory, underscoring the struggle to reignite a protest movement that has lost momentum because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing threat of arrest.
Organizers said 8,943 union members took part in a territory-wide poll, falling short of their 60,000 total vote threshold to go ahead with a general strike, even though 95 percent of participants supported the move.
Separately, the Secondary School Students Action Platform affiliated with prominent advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said it would not initiate a class boycott, as it only received 3,393 in-person supporting votes, also falling short of the target of 5,000 in-person votes.
Eighty-eight percent of 9,910 high-school students who voted in-person or electronically agreed to a walkout.
The vote represented the latest effort by the pro-democracy camp to gain momentum for a campaign that has floundered this year.
Despite its long odds of success, the event had drawn public condemnation from various mainland and Hong Kong authorities in its run-up, signaling it was being particularly scrutinized by Beijing.
The move came at a sensitive time. China on Saturday released a framework of its proposed national security legislation for Hong Kong, which has reignited tensions in the territory and fueled fears that the financial center’s unique freedoms were being eroded.
It confirmed that the central government would have jurisdiction over an “extremely small” number of national security cases under “specific circumstances,” according to draft language released by the official Xinhua news agency.
The referendum has caught the attention of authorities.
China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong Vice Director Chen Dong (陳冬) last week accused the student organization of “entrapping students in the vortex of politics and illegal violence.”
Days earlier, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing called out the organizers, including 23-year-old Wong, one of the leaders of the pro-democracy Demosisto political party, for adding to their “list of sins” with the referendum.
The Hong Kong government urged the public to stay away from such “meaningless activities.”
The last time there was a mass worker strike in Hong Kong was in February, when thousands of medical workers walked off their jobs for five days over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Other recent calls for a general strike, including one last month to stop the legislature from passing a bill that would criminalize disrespect toward China’s national anthem, have flopped.
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