Hong Kong braced for rare strikes and further protests amid an escalating standoff over a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.
Local companies said they would suspend work or allow flexible office hours on Wednesday to accommodate workers planning to demonstrate near the city’s Legislative Council, which will meet to debate amendments. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, a pro-democracy labor group, and several student associations urged members to join the strike and reprise a protest Sunday that drew hundreds of thousands.
The government said it opposed the student strike. It urged schools to make their pupils’ safety a priority and respect different opinions, Hong Kong’s Under Secretary for Education Choi Yuk Lin told reporters.
The legislature is expected to gather around 11 a.m. today for a general meeting before considering changes proposed by opposition lawmakers. The body’s leader closed off the area outside the chamber – a popular protest site known as the Drum – after scuffles in that area early Monday morning.
Opponents want Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, to withdraw the legislation and threatened to organize a bigger, general strike on June 17 to keep up the pressure.
“We are calling on Hong Kong people to come and join our protest rally right outside LegCo,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo said a news conference with other protest organizers yesterday. “When we will call this off is up to Carrie Lam. If she doesn’t scrap this controversial extradition bill, Hong Kongers will fight on.”
Lam’s popularity has fallen to its lowest rating since she took power in 2017, according to a survey by Hong Kong University’s Public Opinion Programme. The poll, which was taken before Sunday’s protests, saw her approval rating plunge to a record low 43 points, down from 64 points the week she assumed office.
Hong Kong-listed Most Kwai Chung Ltd. said in a Facebook post that it would close business for the day because “Hong Kong is sick” and they “wish Hong Kong will get well soon.”
Law firm Vidler & Co. Solicitors said it had notified all employees that “in the event they wished to act in accordance with their conscience” and not attend work today to go on strike against the bill, the firm would support their actions.
While the potential scale of the strike was difficult to assess, one unconfirmed list of participating companies circulating online had grown to 1,000 mostly local firms by late afternoon. People claiming to be airline crews and teachers urged strikes in their own organizations online.
Some of the almost 1,400 multinational corporations with regional offices in Hong Kong, such as the global accounting firm Deloitte, gave employees the option of working from home or at offices away from the protest site. Hundreds of thousands of protesters wearing white and calling for Lam’s resignation marched through the center of the city Sunday in one of the biggest mass demonstrations since the city was returned from British rule in 1997. MDT/Bloomberg