Chinese state media outlets Xinhua and People’s Daily have continued to slam the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), urging the authorities to take action against the group that disbanded on Tuesday.

The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union press conference
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union press conference. File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The city’s largest single-industry union had 95,000 members and had operated for 48 years . Its disbandment came after state media slammed it as a “poisonous tumour” that must be “eradicated.” Hours later, a Hong Kong government spokesperson accused the union of “dragging schools into politics,” making reference to their organisation of a teacher’s strike during the city’s 2014 Umbrella Movement and the publication of teaching materials promoting civil disobedience.

A ‘futile attempt’

In an article published on Wednesday, Xinhua News Agency wrote that the HKPTU’s dissolution was a futile attempt to launder itself,” which “will not write off its alleged crimes in the past.” The city’s law enforcement should investigate the now-defunct group and “serve punishment upon those who acted against the law,” the article read.

China-owned Hong Kong papers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao also continued to slam the group on their frontpages on Wednesday. Ta Kung Pao’s headline said the HKPTU evaded questions over approximately HK$400 million in assets — which included multiple properties. It cited legal experts in saying that the authorities should prevent attempts to destroy evidence.

Wen Wei Po's front page about HKPTU on August 11, 2021.
Wen Wei Po’s front page on August 11, 2021. Photo: Wen Wei Po screenshot.

“The HKPTU has, for years, used the name of a teachers’ group to fan independence and incite violence, cause violence in Hong Kong, and its final demise is completely its own doing,” the Xinhua article alleged. HKPTU was the “the leading culprit to the chaos in Hong Kong’s education,” it read, after thousands of students took to the streets during the 2019 pro-democracy anti-extradition bill protests and unrest.

An article that appeared in People’s Daily on Wednesday echoed the view that HKPTU’s dissolution was a result of “its own doing.”

Ta Kung Pao's front page on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 about HKPTU Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union.
Ta Kung Pao’s front page on Wednesday, August 11, 2021. Photo: Ta Kung Pao screenshot.

“But, disbanding doesn’t mean it can be written off in one stroke, and laundering efforts are wishful thinking,” the Beijing mouthpiece wrote.

Confederation of Trade Unions

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions — of which HKPTU was a member — is also facing heat from local pro-Beijing magazine East Week. Citing anonymous sources, the Sing Tao-owned publication reported that it may be the next in line as a target of investigation by the city’s national security police.

Members such as the Civil Human Rights Front and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China are the subject of investigations, the magazine said.

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions at a protest. Photo: Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

“[HKCTU] was outrageous during the anti-extradition bill protests, mobilising demonstrations, strikes, and it even called for the creation of a large number of unions in order to help pro-mutual destruction factions seize power through the election committee’s labour sector seats,” the report read, referring to pro-democracy labour unions and figures.

The right to form and join labour unions is protected by the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the national security law.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.