Medical group aligned with opposition in Hong Kong comes under official scrutiny for range of criticisms
- Hospital Authority Employees Alliance asked to provide details about eight issues, including comments about Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine
- The Labour Department’s Registry of Trade Unions has given them until Friday to respond, and delisting the group is one possible outcome
Hong Kong’s labour union authority has required a pro-opposition medical group to submit information about its past work, according to its leader, sparking fears the body could be outlawed.
The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance received a letter from the Labour Department’s Registry of Trade Unions earlier this month asking for a written submission with the details by Friday, the group’s acting chairman David Chan Kwok-shing told the Post on Wednesday.
“We plan to comply. We noticed that there could be different outcomes, such as warnings or even disqualification, so we are still discussing with our legal team on how exactly we are responding,” said the nurse from the Caritas Medical Centre public hospital.
Last month the registry informed the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists it would be deregistered as early October 13. The authority cited the Trade Unions Ordinance that allows for unions to be delisted if they were used for any unlawful purpose. But they have at least two months to appeal the decision.
The hospital employees’ alliance, which emerged from the anti-government protest movement in 2019, has been highly critical of the government’s public health policies since the first Covid-19 cases were reported in mainland China in late 2019.
The group launched a general strike among medical staff and urged the government to shut the border with the mainland.
Former chairwoman Winnie Yu Wai-ming was also charged over her role in unofficial primaries the opposition camp held last year and she was released on bail in July.
According to a source, the letter sent by the registry sought information from the alliance on eight issues. Apart from the strike and Yu’s role in the primaries, the alliance was asked to explain: comments it made about the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine; remarks on the government’s “Leave Home Safe” app; its co-organising of screenings and street booths related to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and the rule of law; and its call for people to write to Yu and other activists detained under the security law.
A Labour Department spokeswoman confirmed that a letter was sent to a union on September 3 but declined to disclose any further details.
“If a union seriously violated the ordinance, the registry will not rule out cancelling its registration,” she said.
Dr Arisina Ma Chung-yee, former president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, urged the registry to treat the alliance’s case fairly and “without any political consideration”.
“Medical groups like the alliance made comments about public health issues to raise residents’ understanding. Many medical issues were not black and white. If the government does not listen to opinions from different sides, a lot of people could be upset when new policies are rolled out,” she said.
Since June, at least nine opposition groups or unions have disbanded or announced they would. They included three medical groups – the Frontline Doctors’ Union, Médecins Inspirés and the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industries Employees General Union – and two educators’ bodies – the Progressive Teachers’ Alliance and the Professional Teachers Union (PTU).
But new unions have also been set up. A day after the PTU passed a resolution on Saturday to break up, Kim Wong Kin-ho, a secondary school vice-principal, announced the launch of the Hong Kong Education Workers’ Union.
Wong, a 36-year-old member of the pro-establishment Federation of Education Workers, told the Post he was not worried about being targeted by the trade unions registry.
“If we focus on speaking up for teachers, and communicating with authorities reasonably, I think the situation might not be that pessimistic,” he said.