Tue Nov 28, 2023
November 28, 2023

Hong Kong: the Working Class Takes the Stage

On Monday, August 5, the HKCTU (Hong Kong Trade Union Confederation) called for a workers strike in that territory , reinstated to China in 1997.

By Alejandro Iturbe


The HKCTU is the second central of Hong Kong in number of affiliates. The strike program contained five points:

“A) Permanent withdrawal of the“ extradition law ”project [presented by Governor Carrie Lam to the Legislative Council);

b) Withdrawal of the “riot” characterization of the June 12 protests ;

c) Release of detained protesters , without any charges ;

d) Independent investigation of police violence and abuse of power, and

e) Full implementation of universal suffrage (for the election of Head of Government and  Legislative Council] ”[1].

The strike had a strong impact on the transportation sector, especially in the metro system (essential for the normal functioning of the territory), on buses and  airlines. It was also extended to the media and the strong financial sector, both because of the adherence of some sectors of workers and because of the great difficulties to get to work places.

It was preceded by four days of demonstrations, initiated the previous Friday with a mobilization of state workers. On Monday August 5 , the strike was reinforced by blockades of subway stations and key street crossings, carried out by groups of activists who moved constantly to avoid police repression. The city became a real chaos, full of “traffic clots” [2].

This strike is a new step in an ongoing process of struggle for democratic demands carried out by the people of Hong Kong against the Chinese regime in Beijing, which began last June in rejection of the “extradition law” proposed by Governor Carrie Lam [3].

The governor responded again with strong police repression: more than 420 protesters have been arrested and the police claimed to have fired more than 1,000 tear gas cartridges against what she called “urban guerrilla tactics” of the protesters [4].

Governor Carrie Lam is getting weaker: protesters demand her resignation, and her support among the population has fallen below 20% [5]. Facing the strike, at a press conference she merely reiterated her previous position: she will not resign and although the suspension of the “extradition law” project is in effect , she does not withdraw it. At the same time, she blamed the protesters for the situation and justified the police repression: “some radical elements have changed the nature of the protests” [6].

This whole process of struggle begins to affect the economy of the territory (based on an investment platform in mainland China) and the “confidence” of  local and international bourgeoisie on how to solve it in their favor: “The Hang Seng, Hong Kong’s stock index lost 2.85% on Monday. In the last two weeks, the fall reached 5.86%. […] Last week, a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that many of the associated companies began to perceive the city as a risk destination for their investments, so many were opting to move to other Asian locations  like Singapore ”[7].

In the context of an increasingly tense and polarized situation, and given the impossibility of controlling or defeating the struggle process, Carrie Lam hinted  a possible intervention of the Chinese army to defeat it. “These actions threaten sovereignty and can push Hong Kong to a path of no return. Do we want to use the lives of seven million people and the future of Hong Kong as chips in this bet? ”, she said, without giving more details about it, in what many understood as a reference to a hypothetical mobilization of the Chinese Army, already expressed twice by Beijing [sic], and for which only her approval would be necessary ”[8].

Some considerations

In an article already published on this site, we analyze the specific characteristics of Hong Kong (a British colony reintegrated into China in 1997) and the profound contradictions that this process of struggle generated for the Beijing regime:“Because of its historical tradition and the characteristics of its society, Hong Kong represents a great contradiction for the Chinese regime. This contradiction is not between capitalism and “Chinese socialism” (which has not existed for decades). In this aspect, the territory is perfectly complemented and is very useful for capitalism, the bourgeoisie and the Chinese regime. The main contradiction arises between the Chinese political regime (a dictatorship) and the democratic aspirations of the population of Hong Kong (workers, middle sectors and the lower bourgeoisie).  Beijing needs to “tame” Hong Kong but it does not succeed, and that creates a situation of local government crisis, and a challenge for the Chinese regime as a whole. ”[9]

Faced with this profound contradiction, within the framework of our support for this process of mass ascent, we put forward two central proposals for the development of the struggle of the people of Hong Kong. First: “the entry of the working class with its strength, its organization and its methods (something that is already beginning to occur) is essential, so that it becomes the protagonist of the struggle” [10].

The recent strike shows that this path is not only possible, but must be maintained and deepened.The second proposal was based on considering that “this confrontation is not only against the local authorities of Hong Kong but, fundamentally, against the dictatorial regime of Beijing, its true support. Under these conditions, this democratic struggle must necessarily find solidarity and extend to mainland China. Whichever alternative is considered correct (autonomy or independence), it can only be realized if, together with the workers and the masses of mainland China, it advances and takes down the Chinese regime (‘Down with the dictatorship’) ”[11].

The development of the process has made a Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong one of the possible alternatives . It is not easy for the Chinese regime to make this decision, for a combination of reasons. One of them is that the process of struggle in the territory is maintained and radicalized, and establishes a correlation of local forces totally different from the whole of China, much more favorable to the masses.However, for the Chinese regime, the issue is not limited only to Hong Kong: “As long as the democratic struggles in the territory continue and deepen, this situation can act as a ‘fuse’ that ignites other fires in China  through the many communicating links , especially with the southern region closest to the territory ”[12].

Therefore, given the impossibility of “domesticating” the process, we cannot rule out a military intervention by the Beijing dictatorship that raises the level of repression to that of Tiananmen Square, in 1989. A conflicting necessity, that would increase in case of a much stronger  and more radicalized  struggle in Hong Kong that could reach an “intolerable limit” for the Chinese regime if Governor Lam was defeated by the struggle and Beijing lost control of the territory. It is a false illusion to think that imperialist countries and their governments will be allies of this struggle. They have already begun to criticize “the violence” of the protesters [13] and, as we saw, they are only worried about the progress of their business.

The reality is that, beyond their “democratic” declarations, they have been and are allies of the Chinese dictatorship.What we want to express is that the extension of its struggle to the whole of China and to the workers of the continent has become a main task in the development of the heroic struggle that the people of Hong Kong have been carrying out.


[1] http://en.hkctu.org.hk/content/strive-five-major-demands-calling-workers-strike-5-august (our translation)

[2] https://elpais.com/internacional/2019/08/05/actualidad/1564985400_228362.html

[3] On the whole process see: https://litci.org/es/menu/mundo/asia/hong-kong/hong-kong-proceso-movilizacion-democratica-no-se-detiene/

[4] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/mundo/2019/08/greve-geral-em-hong-kong-gera-caos-no-transito- blockia-trens-e-cancela-voos.shtml

[5] See note [2].

[6] Idem.

[7] Idem.

[8] Idem.

[9] See note [3].

[10] https://litci.org/es/menu/mundo/asia/hong-kong/se-endurece-la-lucha-hong-kong/

[11] Idem.

[12] See note [3].

[13] On this point, see statements by a British minister and the diplomatic head of the European Union, cited in the note article [10].


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