Northern Ireland trade union protests repression in Hong Kong and China

Unanimous decision by NIPSA at its annual conference

Socialist Party reporters, Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA), the largest union of workers in Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to register at its congress its opposition to repression against trade unionists and democracy activists in Hong Kong. The union, which represents 40,000 civil servants and public sector workers, backed a motion to “Support solidarity campaigns with those fighting for genuinely independent trade unions and democratic rights for workers in Hong Kong and China.” No delegates voted against this motion.

The motion was moved by William Brooks, a member of the Socialist Party (International Socialist Alternative in Ireland) and supporter of the ‘Solidarity Against Repression in China and Hong Kong’ campaign. It was seconded by Ruaidhri O’Sandair, from NIPSA’s general council (the union’s executive). They highlighted how it was June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, and that trade unionists had to “mourn for the dead but fight like hell for the living.”

They told delegates that so far 600 people have been convicted of political offenses in Hong Kong in connection with the democracy protests of 2019, and that commemoration to remember Tiananmen Square has been banned. Those who commemorate these events face prison time. The trial of 47 democracy activists for ‘subversion’ under the national security law started this week. They also pointed to the massive repression in mainland China against trade unionists and the racist policies against the Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. At the same time, they said trade unionists should have no truck with the hypocrisy of western governments who support undemocratic regimes across the world.

Unite the Union

Trade unionists should be unequivocal in opposing repression in all its forms but particularly against fellow trade unionists which the motion particularly focuses on. As well as NIPSA, the hospitality branch of Unite the Union in Northern Ireland, which organises precarious workers in that sector has passed a similar motion to support solidarity campaigns of independent trade unionists like Solidarity Against Repression in China and Hong Kong. Socialist Party members and supporters of Solidarity Against Repression in China and Hong Kong will continue to raise these issues in the trade union and workers’ movement in Ireland.

The motion carried carried at NIPSA conference reads:

Conference expresses our solidarity with trade unionists and the people of Hong Kong who face unprecedented attacks on democratic rights. Conference notes since 2020, Hong Kong has seen a severe political crackdown by the Chinese government, imposing a national security law with draconian penalties. This law is being used to crush democratic rights in Hong Kong.

Prominent trade unionists are targeted. Winnie Yu Wai-ming, a nurse and founder of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA), is currently in jail awaiting trial for “subversion” as is Carol Ng of the HKCTU. The HAEA was formed during the democracy protests of 2019 and was the first hospital trade union in the world to strike for greater resources to fight Covid-19.

Developments in Hong Kong are “a full-on assault on basic human rights: freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble,” says the ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrows. The Union for New Civil Servants announced its dissolution in 2021 under government threats. In China the regime does not tolerate independent trade unions or basic democratic rights and is now extending this political system to Hong Kong.

Conference calls on the general council to

  • Demands the abolishing of the repressive national security law and drop the unfounded charges against democracy activists.
  • Support solidarity campaigns with those fighting for genuinely independent trade unions and democratic rights for workers in Hong Kong and China.