Hong Kong’s pro-democracy trade union coalition is in the process of disbanding, its vice chairperson has told HKFP, becoming the latest civil society group to fold in the face of an intensified government crackdown.

Leo Tang of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions on Friday confirmed the group had begun disbandment procedures, but said nobody from its leadership has resigned.

Yuen Long July 21, 2021 Lam Chun
Leo Tang (left) of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and Lam Chun (right) of Tin Shui Wai Connection speak at the Yuen Long public transport interchange on July 21, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Earlier local media reports on Friday had suggested that its chief executive Mung Siu-tat had already stepped down.

The group is still in discussions and expects to make an official announcement of its reasons for disbanding on Sunday afternoon, Tang told HKFP.

Pro-Beijing magazine Eastweek reported last month, citing anonymous sources, that the coalition could be the next target for a national security police investigation.

Founded in 1990, the HKCTU championed workers’ rights and represented 145,000 members from 93 different groups covering a broad spectrum including aviation, construction, catering, retail and social welfare.

Civil society groups crumbling

It becomes the latest major pro-democracy civil society group to disband in recent months, following the dissolution of one of its former members, the city’s largest teachers’ union, and of the pro-democracy coalition which organised the city’s mass pro-democracy marches.

Dozens of smaller pro-democracy groups have also disbanded since the introduction of the national security law in June 2020.

National security law
A banner inside the Hong Kong government headquarters promoting the national security law. Photo: GovHK.

The disbandment comes amid growing pressure from Chinese-backed media on the city’s unions and mounting national security probes on pro-democracy civil society groups.

Pressure on pro-democracy groups which have long been part of the city’s social fabric has prompted critics to accuse Hong Kong authorities of using the security law to dismantle civil society. Leader Carrie Lam has denied such an intention.

The HKCTU’s founder and general secretary, veteran pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan, is currently serving concurrent sentences of 18 months for his participation in the 2019 pro-democracy protests. He also faces a national security charge of “incitement to subversion.”

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Rhoda kwan

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.