On 15 January 2021, the Hong Kong Civil Service Bureau (CSB), undoubtedly acting under the instruction of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her Chinese Communist Party masters, issued a circular to all government departments
All 180,000 workers in these departments will be required to take an oath of loyalty to the government and its “basic law”. If they take that oath and are later seen to be acting “disloyally”, they can face immediate disciplinary action. Monitoring of their activities might also feed into their prosecution under the National Security Law.
Many civil service workers, including Michael Ngan, chair of the 3,000 strong New Civil Servants Union, have been prominently involved in the democracy movement. The union was formed about a year ago to defend the workers both economically as well as from political victimisation.
Not surprisingly, they are reluctant to take the “Oath of Loyalty” now demanded of them. But they face a terrible dilemma. Do they stay openly truthful to their beliefs in democratic reform and wait to be sacked? Do they allow themselves to be sacked immediately by not signing the oath?
Do they face their union being unable to defend members who will not or cannot deny their involvement in political protests?
Sadly, the union leaders have decided they have no choice other than to dissolve their union. They feared that no-one would come forward to run the union in the light of the initial organisers being driven out of employment.
The PCS, the main civil service workers’ union in Britain, passed a motion two months in solidarity with the new union. It is considering what solidarity it can give now. The trade union movement internationally needs to give direct financial and other support to Hong Kong workers’ unions so that they do not suffer similar setbacks.