Canada’s unions call for the immediate release of trade union leaders jailed in Hong Kong

April 20, 2021

Canada’s unions strongly condemn the prosecution of trade union leaders and pro‑democracy activists in Hong Kong. On April 16, Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, was sentenced to 18 months in jail for participating in a pro-democracy protest organized by trade unions nearly two years ago.

Four other democracy defenders also received prison sentences and five more were handed suspended sentences. Lee Cheuk Yan will face six more charges in the coming months with other trade union leaders Carol Ng and Winnie Yu who are under pre-trial detention for subversion under the national security law.

“This violates the very basic principle of the freedom of association and the legitimate right of trade unions to participate in social and economic activities,” says Hassan Yussuff, Canadian Labour Congress President. “We stand with our comrade and friend Lee Cheuk Yan and call on the Government of Hong Kong to drop all charges against these activists.”

Trade unions have been at the forefront of the fight to safeguard democracy since China introduced legislative changes – including the national security law – that infringe on Hong Kong sovereignty and criminalize protest. It is weakening the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which upholds the one country, two systems principle that protects freedoms retained in the handover from British rule, including the freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights that are not protected in the rest of China.

Before the sentencing, Lee Cheuk Yan dedicated the song You’ll Never Walk Alone to the people of Hong Kong. “We will walk together even in darkness, with hope in our heart.”

Canadian unions continue to stand with Hong Kong’s workers, trade union leaders and pro-democracy activists in these dark times.

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