Concluding Speech of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China on the Application of International Labour Convention No. 87 at the virtual meeting of the Committee on the Application of Standards held during the 109th Session of the International Labour Conference
(By Mr. SUN Yuk Han, Chris, Commissioner for Labour, Labour Department, HKSAR, P.R.China)
(June 11, 2021)
Thank you Madam Chair,
I would like to thank all delegates for their contribution to the discussion of our case. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China took note of the Committee's observations and will address them in detail in our next report on the application of Convention No. 87. That said, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Hong Kong SAR Government's views.
2. First and foremost, I must stress that our Government takes our obligations under the International Labour Conventions seriously. In respect of Convention No. 87, we are fully committed to protecting workers' rights to form and join trade unions, and their participation in union activities.
3. As I have mentioned earlier, the rights of Hong Kong residents to form and join trade unions are guaranteed under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR of the People's Republic of China. These rights have remained intact and have not been affected in any way upon the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law. Indeed, the continued increase in the number of registered trade unions in the Hong Kong SAR over the years bears testimony to the freedom and rights of Hong Kong residents to organise amongst themselves.
4. Under our labour laws, there are robust and adequate protection against discrimination against labour unions. We accord high priority to investigating complaints on suspected acts of anti-union discrimination. Our Government does not, and will never, tolerate any breach of the law by employers in this respect. We will not hesitate to initiate prosecution whenever there is sufficient evidence to pin down the offenders.
5. On labour rights and benefits, the Hong Kong SAR Government has been reviewing our labour legislation from time to time through tripartite consultations among the government, workers' organisations and employers' organisations, with a view to making continued improvements to labour rights and benefits, whilst striking a balance between the interests of employees and employers. To name a few, in recent years, statutory maternity leave has been extended from 10 weeks to 14 weeks, and statutory paternity leave has been extended from three days to five days. The labour law has also been amended to empower the Labour Tribunal and the courts, in case of unreasonable and unlawful dismissals (which include dismissals by reason of exercising the right to trade union membership or participation in trade union activities), to make a compulsory order for reinstatement or reengagement of an employee without having first to secure the agreement of the employer.
6. In exercising the rights enshrined in Convention No. 87, everyone shall respect the law of the land. Any society that upholds the rule of law cannot possibly accept anyone to be put above the law or having the privilege of breaking the law without facing legal consequences. If there is any illegal act, any responsible law enforcement agency must deal with it based on evidence and in strict 3 accordance with the law. The Hong Kong SAR Government must emphasize that such enforcement actions are directed against the criminal act itself, irrespective of the social status of the persons concerned or whether they are trade unionists. The Hong Kong authorities have been handling, and will continue to handle, all criminal offences in a fair and impartial manner.
7. The Hong Kong SAR Government respects citizens' freedom of speech and expression. Their rights of procession and peaceful assembly are protected by the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. The Hong Kong Police Force have always been handling application for public meetings or processions in strict accordance with the statutory requirements under the Public Order Ordinance and having regard to all relevant facts and circumstances in each application.
8. Coming to the Hong Kong National Security Law, let me stress again that Hong Kong people have been enjoying, and will continue to enjoy, the rights and freedoms as provided for under the Basic Law. In this regard, any law enforcement actions taken by the law enforcement agencies for suspicion of breaches of any national security offences must be based on evidence, in strict adherence to the law and focused on the criminal acts committed by the persons or entities concerned.
9. A number of speakers referred to the arrests of members of trade unions by the Hong Kong law enforcement agencies in relation to public order events, we would like to emphasize that any arrest and prosecution under any law, including the Hong Kong National Security Law, is directed against the criminal act itself and has nothing to do with the political stance, background, or their status as trade union leaders. The principle of rule of law is upheld in Hong Kong and will continue 4 to be upheld in future.
10. The Hong Kong court, which enjoys independent judicial powers, has made rulings on some of the prosecutions made and convicted the defendants. This proves that the prosecution actions were fully justified. The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to handle every case in a fair, just and impartial manner in accordance with the law.
11. In the days ahead, the Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to strengthen publicity and education, so as to enhance Hong Kong people's understanding of national security and law-abiding awareness, and also deepen the understanding of the international community on the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and its positive messages.
12. Madam Chairperson, the Hong Kong SAR Government is fully committed and attaches high priority to safeguarding workers' rights to form and join trade unions and take part in union activities. We assure the Committee of our Government's continued compliance with all the obligations of International Labour Conventions applied to the Hong Kong SAR. We will continue to submit our Article 22 reports and provide the Committee of Experts with the information requested.
13. Thank you.
Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China