THE BLOG

Exploited Workers in Hong Kong Went on Strike This Week to Call for Pro-Democracy

06/10/2014 00:39 BST | Updated 05/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Around the world people are pushing for real political participation, and also the public across Britain's ex-Far East colony want more control over their own lives.

Seven years ago China promised 2017 elections by universal suffrage for Hong Kong. In a referendum this summer hundreds of thousands of voters demanded open nomination of candidates. Yet Beijing in August said only candidates approved by a selection committee would be allowed to stand.

Trade unions have taken prominent roles in the movement for universal suffrage, with a statement issued by human rights organisations, including calls for standard working hours and pensions for all. The statement also seeks a crackdown on property speculation and guaranteed citizens' right to housing. In addition, the unions and other groups say the Hong Kong government must hold regular talks with grassroots campaigners to discuss mid to long-term policies that benefit people such as workers.

The statement, endorsed by 41groups, claims the Chinese Communist Party and business corporations have worsened Hong Kong's gap between haves and have-nots. It accuses the government in Hong Kong's special administrative region of protecting the rich, amid workers' suffering. Li Fei, vice-secretary general of the National People's Congress in China, even declared that the high threshold set for selecting Hong Kong chief executive candidates would safeguard business interests.

Last November, War on Want's partner revealed five Apple tablet workers' suicides at a Hong Kong-owned plant. Moreover, the partner, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, cited employees paid late, forced to toil 77 hours a week, and given one day off a month, with inadequate compensation for injury.

The accused owner, Biel Crystal, which makes Apple screens, employs more than 60,000 workers in two factories, with annual revenue exceeding £3 billion. The company supplies 60 per cent of Apple's glass covers, and produces them also for other brands, like Samsung, Nokia, HTC and Motorola.

Earlier this month, SACOM protested outside Apple's store in Hong Kong, amid the iPhone 6 launch. The group contrasted the store's money-spinning launch success with conditions at the Apple manufacturing partner Pegatron, after a year-long probe into three factories. Workers toiled as many as 18 hours a day, up to 10 weeks before time off, without protective equipment, and had to pay for their own health checks during recruitment. The firm hired numerous dispatch workers to avoid providing employment benefits like social insurance.

All in all, no wonder people in Hong Kong crave democracy that sets people's needs before financial greed.

Martin Gemzell,

Senior International Programmes Officer,

War on Want