“We call on the Government of China to immediately withdraw troops from the border with Hong Kong, and to respect the rights of the people of Hong Kong,” asserts OPSEU President Warren “Smokey” Thomas. “This is not simply a case of one group exploiting their own. The protesters in Hong Kong sent a clear message to all of us that we cannot and shall not remain silent in the face of a government that refuses to listen to its people. In standing up for democracy, the rule of law and free expression, these Hong Kong activists are standing up for us all.”
Despite attacks and arrests by police since the first massive protest in June, millions of people in Hong Kong continue to oppose the Extradition Bill by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Instead, China has sent police forces to violently suppress the demonstrations. The arrogance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the violent suppression by Hong Kong police have not deterred the protesters from standing up for democracy.
The response to the protests by police reveal that this is about more than an Extradition Bill. It cuts to the foundations of democracy, including the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The Hong Kong Federation of Journalists reported on hundreds of cases of police violence against their members. China also ordered the Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific to suspend any staff that support pro-democracy protests. Rebecca Sy, President of Cathay Dragon Flight Attendants Union, was terminated for her Facebook postings on the General strike organized by Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) on August 4, 2019
Elizabeth Ha, Coalition of Racialized Workers Vice-Chair, People of Asian Descent, identifies what is happening in Hong Kong as the same fight as the students 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square and the Umbrella Movement 5 years ago for democracy and universal suffrage. “People will rise up when they feel they have nothing to lose.” Ha recently met with members of the HKCTU. “By standing up and resisting a government that fails to listen, these Hong Kong activists are saying we are not invisible nor are we obedient subjects to a repressive regime.”
Given the latest round of arrests of pro-democracy organizers including Joshua Wong and elected legislators, President Thomas sees the more urgent question for OPSEU is “what are we going to do about it?” Thomas urges OPSEU members to pressure their elected politicians and the international community to step up. There is also a call for Premier Ford to denounce the anti-democratic China regime. “When we witness the resilience of the protestors in Hong Kong from here in Ontario,” Thomas notes “they have much to teach us about how to resist a government that fails to listen to the people.”