Series: Dispatches from HKCTU

An archival translation series of meditations on repression and labor organizing by HKCTU members

Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan; edited by JN

We have collected here our five translations of short Facebook posts from members of HKCTU posted shortly after their dissolution under the pressure of government and media harassment in September 2021. As evidence of oppositional Hongkonger culture continues to be erased by the government (most recently, the raid on Stand News), we see this translation and archival process as critical to collective memory and political education.

While it is a crushing blow to civil society to see the destruction of the last independent, grassroots, progressive labor union federation in the city, what the posts from CTU members argue forcefully is that what remains beyond the death of an institution is the human urge to help others and the will to organize in whatever conditions unfold in an increasingly bleak future.

5. As long as there are people, we can continue to write our own stories

Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan

We would also like to thank all the affiliated unions that have continued and persisted to the end. During today’s discussion, apart from our reluctance to part, we also witnessed the fighting spirit among union chapters and their willingness to hold onto their ideas and continue to wage struggle in the industry. We all know that labour organizing must not be stopped.

4. This revolution may not have been won, but please would you stay and stand witness together

Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan

I have not succeeded in achieving particular victories during my four years in college or my three years in the labor union, but I have seen some workers I have gotten to know transform from being afraid to fight for their own rights to taking the initiative to voice their grievances to the company, choosing to sacrifice their own personal interests during the strike period and having all workers join together to fight against the company. The wave of new unions that broke out during the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement; the connection between different industries in the movement; the resistance of unions under the social gathering ban—all these are things that cannot be erased.

3. It’s not important that HKCTU has dissolved—What’s important is whether or not our civil society will dissolve

Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan

The movement often talks about what is “being seen.” What can be seen are those marginalized issues, people and things that normally cannot be seen in everyday life. You may ask, what is the point of “being seen?” The fact is that the movement over the years has not brought about any real results, right? But I think the point of “being seen” is not to make anything happen, but to make people less lonely and to let them know that their efforts are not foolish and in vain.

2. ‘A union doesn’t depend on its staff and leaders but on its members’—An interview with Law Chi-wai

Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan

As HKCTU was discussing its disbanding in recent days, it naturally consulted Law for his thoughts on this issue. He said, “It’s not my individual decision, we should ask the other members. They have the right to propose anything no matter what their thoughts are.” To Law, the union is not just his organization. He values others’ opinions over his own. When I asked him how he cultivated his care for others and ability to listen intentionally to his co-workers, he naturally and confidently responded, “democratic practice is natural and important, it’s a basic principle of being a person.” His response was simple and straightforward, seeing these principles as rational things to grasp. 

1. HKCTU is dead but the citizen is not: The birth of the Hotel Employees’ Union

Graphic: spf.pdf for Lausan

In the unionization wave of 2020, CTU staffers were often doing the so-called “shitwork.” Besides helping to kickstart some of the unions, they were pivotal to a lot of the behind-the-scenes work supporting the hospital workers’ strike, the June 20th cross-sector strike. Many people don’t realize this, and we want to take this moment to thank our friends in HKCTU.