Pro-democracy protests continue to rage in Hong Kong
Theo Sharieff, Socialist Party youth organiser
The issue which sparked the protests over two months ago, the notorious extradition bill, was suspended weeks ago by the city’s chief executive Carrie Lam.
Despite this, protesters continue to fight on, wanting the complete withdrawal of the bill and fearing further clampdowns on democracy as the Chinese state seeks to extend its control and influence over Hong Kong. The Hong Kong puppet government is under pressure from the Chinese regime to end the movement, taking a consistently hard-line approach to the protests.
The stakes were upped by authorities when protesters arrested after last weekend’s demonstrations, originally charged with unlawful assembly, were charged with the much more serious offence of rioting – a charge that can carry a maximum ten-year prison sentence.
In response, the movement has also upped its own stakes, with the call for a ‘general strike’ being made by Hong Kong’s main trade union federation, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) on 5 August.
The 5 August protests were estimated to be the biggest since the movement began, with an estimated 300,000 or more workers in various sectors, including aviation, the civil service and teachers not attending work on the day.
But the limited extent of the strike action was demonstrated when it was protesters who temporarily shut down the train links, blocking the doors from closing either with their bodies or with umbrellas.
In other areas of the city, protesters established roadblocks to stop the flow of traffic.
The movement, which has mobilised an estimated quarter of the population on some protests, is diffuse, with different ideas on how to take the movement forward. When the LegCo (Hong Kong ‘parliament’) was stormed last month, some protesters draped it with Union Flags, demonstrating nostalgia among a section for a return to British colonial rule.
Programme and party
This and the limited nature of the strikes highlight the need for putting forward an independent working-class programme to clarify the ideas necessary for winning genuine democratic rights.
The formation of action committees in workplaces with no trade union presence would be a welcome first step to building for further, better organised, coordinated strike action between different sectors and workplaces.
But limited one-day protest strikes will not be enough to force the Hong Kong government into reversing all of the anti-democratic reforms enacted over previous years.
Hong Kong’s super rich ruling elite rely on Hong Kong’s relationship with China for their mega-profits.
That’s why the struggle for democratic rights in Hong Kong is inseparable from the need to overthrow capitalism and linked to that, to build a united struggle with the powerful mainland Chinese working class to overthrow the Chinese regime.
Despite the existence of different ideas in the movement, crucial to taking it forward would be a socialist programme, linked to the construction of a new workers’ party in Hong Kong capable of giving the working class a political lead.
Workers and young people in Hong Kong have been brutally attacked by capitalist austerity measures in recent years, while inequality in Hong Kong has reached its highest level since records began 45 years ago. This is the economic and social background to the current political crisis.
A clear and bold socialist programme, linking the struggle for democratic rights to other working class demands – such as well-paid jobs, public services, housing, etc, for all workers and young people – could elevate the struggle.
It could pull more workers into the movement to build for a general strike to shut down Hong Kong society altogether and as a step to overturning the ruling elite.
Such a movement could abolish capitalism and lay the foundations of the socialist transformation of society.