The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Hong Kong:
Youth on the Front Lines

Sep 16, 2019

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, announced on September 4 that she had withdrawn the proposed law allowing suspects to be extradited to China. Opposition to this measure sparked the mobilization that has lasted for months, but its withdrawal was not enough to stop this movement, which has expanded its demands as well as its demonstrations.

The August 31 weekend was particularly violent, with confrontations between the police and young demonstrators. In advance of that weekend, Carrie Lam had arrested three deputies and the old leaders of the Umbrella Movement. This movement that had started on August 31, 2014, had demanded the election of the local parliament through universal suffrage. On its anniversary, Lam banned all political demonstrations. Nonetheless, equipped with helmets, gas masks, face coverings, and also iron bars and Molotov cocktails, thousands of young people set up barricades on the main roads and confronted the police. For their part, the police used water cannons shooting indelible ink. Shocking images of police knocking to the ground people using the metro stations overrun by demonstrators made the rounds. More than 900 demonstrators have been arrested since June 15.

Monday, September 2, when high schools and universities were set to begin their semesters, students organized a call to boycott classes and formed human chains in front of the schools. Young demonstrators who were interviewed expressed their determination. In addition to rejecting Chinese control, they raised their futures, blocked by the lack of jobs, and the impossibility of finding decent housing.

While the struggle seems to remain popular, workers who have gone on strike in public transport, the Cathay Pacific Airline, or among the 250,000 bank workers, have faced serious reprisals. The CEO of Cathay Pacific was fired for letting the workers strike. The Chinese government has demanded a list of all the strikers, and banned them from flights in China.

Until now almost silent, the bosses of the big Hong Kong corporations, British or Chinese, who really run Hong Kong, have increased the threats against their employees who participate in the demonstrations or go on strike. On their side, the Western bosses, including Trump (who never misses an opportunity to criticize Xi Jinping) content themselves with calls to “end the violence” or to repress, but “with humanity.” The French employers’ organization recalled its ambassador to China to his university, but without speaking about Hong Kong.

Why? Because this crisis which has lasted for three months, in the middle of the trade war between the U.S. and China, has made luxury tourism decline. It has had visible effects on the transactions of the world financial center that is Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong youth will find no support from the side of Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, or French President Emmanuel Macron. They are always ready to give speeches about democracy, but are really preoccupied with protecting the interests and profits of the big companies in this region.