Thousands take to the streets for Labour Day rally

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 2:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 11:37am

Workers, activists, dockers and their supporters hit the streets of Hong Kong on Wednesday to protest against poor wages, working conditions and a host of other causes in the city's annual Labour Day march from Victoria Park to government offices in Central. March organisers estimated 5,000 people took part in the rally, while police put the number at 3,700.

6.15pm Crowds starting to disperse now.

6.03pm Labour Day protesters cross over to CWL building in Central, with an insane amount of police in the area.

4.52pm With 5,000 people surrounding government headquarters in Tamar some demonstrators are discussing their next move. "We're moving to Cheung Kong Center next!" said one demonstrator amid a bit of wind and rain.

4.34pm Touchdown at Tamar HQ. The hard hats are the first to arrive.

4.10pm Albert Yau of the activist group Midnight Blue said he joined the rally to promote the rights of male sex workers.

"We want to stress the message that sex workers are workers too," Yau said. "They should be given the same dignity as ordinary workers."

3.51pm Americans Katelyn Davis of the Mission for Migrant Workers and Beth McRill of the Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrant Workers attended the rally.

"We're here to support the efforts of foreign domestic workers," they said. "We're trying to push for a 'Live Out' option for foreign domestic helpers."

"I was disappointed with the right of abode decision ... it was unfair," said Davis. "But it's encouraging to know the case has been taken to highest level."

3.20pm Tutik (right) says she has come to the protest to show her support for higher wages for migrant workers, especially Indonesian domestic helpers like herself. "I really support what the unions are doing for us"

She earns just HK$3,920 now, but she hopes the government can do something to bump it up to "at least HK$4,000".

3.15pm Video: Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers march. "We are workers, we are not slaves!" they shout as others - less activist - sit in nearby Victoria park for their usual social gatherings.

3.09pm Members of the Progressive Labour Union for Democratic Workers in Hong Kong, a union for domestic helpers, march to shouts of "we are workers! We are not machines!"

3.00pm March is on ... leaving Victoria Park now.

2.54pm An hour late ... but finally the march begins with shouts of: "Strike! Strike!" And "higher wages!"

The dock workers are being treated like VIPs ... "Make way for the dock workers!"

2.48pm Tong Hiu-yan (below), a year one student at the University of Hong Kong, is at the march with 15 members of the HKU Social Work and Social Administration Society. They're here to support the dock workers and are also calling for better working conditions.

"We're here to generate more awareness about labour rights at HKU and promote collective bargaining," she says.

"Hong Kong's prosperity was built on the backs of hard labour."

2.40pm Paul Lam is here in Victoria Park with his  wife and two children preparing for the rally.

"It's important that citizens voice out their concerns when necessary such as the issue of min wage," said Lam.

"We don't always attend demonstrations, but we do when we feel its important enough." he said.  

It's good exposure for the kids."


2.15pm Video: Lee Cheuk-yan, Legco member and General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, tells the South China Morning Post.

"More people are coming out in Hong Kong to support our demands for better working hours and conditions.

It is a shame that Hong Kong is now one of the richest cities in the world and Li Ka-shing the 8th richest man in the world, but we have no working hour regulation. Workers work in such shameful conditions, 24 hours a day, with no lunch breaks or toilet breaks. Also, we don’t have collective bargaining rights for workers. So what we are demanding today, are the rights for collective bargaining, working hour regulation, overtime premium, and maximum working hours."

2.00pm Marchers get ready at Victoria Park soccer pitch for the rally despite a growing wind and drizzle, putting last-minute touches to their banners.

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Proposed route of the May 1 afternoon rally: Soccer pitch, Victoria Park -- Central Government Offices -- Cheung Kong Centre -- Hutchison House