A pro-democracy activist has been removed from his lifeguard union, with it accusing him of harming the integrity of the group. It cited Alex Kwok’s participation in social movements and media interviews without approval.

But Kwok, a former union chairman, said the union itself has been participating in pro-democracy movements for decades and he did not claim to represent them to reporters.

Alex Kwok. File Photo: InmediaHK.

The Hong Kong & Kowloon Life Guards’ Union stripped Kwok of his membership permanently, after an internal meeting.

“Mr Kwok participated in social movements in a high profile way when he was an executive member of the union, and when he took medical leave for a work injury,” a union statement read.

“It is a violation of the civil servants’ political neutrality rule and integrity – it has caused dissatisfaction among a majority of our members and damages the reputation of lifeguards.”

Alex Kwok was a chief steward in Admiralty during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests. He remained on medical leave for a clavicle fracture from when the protests began that September.

Kwok failed to be re-elected as an executive member last year.

The union accused him of appearing in media interviews “on behalf of the union” without the approval of the executive committee, and after he was urged not to.

“It has violated the internal guidelines of the union, seriously harming the integrity of the union,” the statement read.

Alex Kwok speaking to reporters. File Photo: RTHK screenshot.

In response, Kwok told Apple Daily that he suspected there was pro-Beijing political interference in the union. He said Lai Ping-kwan, the incumbent union chairman who is currently travelling overseas, did not know of the incident beforehand.

Kwok also dismissed the suggestion that he made false claims to obtain medical clearance, saying that he would have been prosecuted if he did so.

He said the union was a pro-democracy leaning one which had been established for more than 50 years. It was involved in forming the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, and has participated in Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy marches and supported the Occupy protests with labour strikes, he said.

The political neutrality rule should be used to restrain top officials and disciplinary forces, he said, and should not be used to strip political rights from low level civil servants after working hours.

Kwok also said he only appeared in the media as a former union chairman or a veteran lifeguard, after the time he was an executive member.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.