Plans to stage a walkout over looming Beijing-imposed national security laws in Hong Kong have sputtered to a halt following a low turnout in a vote on the issue.
Organisers of the unofficial referendum – led by 30 labour unions and a student platform – had pledged to hold an industrial strike and class boycott if at least 60 per cent of 60,000 members voted in favour of the action.
In total, 8,943 out of 16,975 union members cast their ballots, representing a turnout rate of approximately 52.7 per cent, whilst only 20 per cent of six unions carried the motion to strike, organisers said. They also reported a 21.4 per cent increase in union membership from before.
However, Demosisto activist Isaac Cheng – who represented organiser the Secondary Schools Student Action Platform – told reporters the turnout rate for pupils exceeded the 10,000 minimum threshold.
“We understand it is difficult to overcome fear when authorities have been creating white terror for days,” he said. “More than ten thousand students proved they have never given up Hong Kong. We sincerely thank them for coming out despite the oppression.”
The results came despite coordinators extending the polling hours for some stations to 9 pm following a “massive” rush of voters at the last hour. They said the decision was made on the basis of ensuring “citizens’ freedom of speech.”
Saturday’s “referendum” came as Chinese state media Xinhua reported details of the controversial legislation to quash behaviour in Hong Kong that Beijing deems a threat to national security. The decision followed months of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in the city.
The agency cited the draft law – set to bypass the local legislature – as outlining Beijing’s plan to establish a “national security bureau” in Hong Kong, and Chinese authorities having jurisdiction on national security crimes in the city.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Saturday expressed support for the draft law as reported by Xinhua: “The HKSAR government fully supports this initiative and will fulfil its responsibility to ensure the effective implementation of the relevant law in Hong Kong,” she said according to the government statement.