The American Federation of Teachers again condemns the suppression of democracy and worker rights in Hong Kong.
In recent weeks, the Beijing regime has trampled on the "one country, two systems" concept, which is at the heart of the 1997 agreement transferring sovereignty over Hong Kong from Great Britain to China. Under that agreement, Hong Kong citizens were promised that they would largely be able to rule themselves under conditions of increasing democratization. According to the "Basic Law" (the closest thing Hong Kong has to a constitution) there was even a hope for direct elections of Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2007 and of 100 percent of the legislature by 2008—as compared to the 50 percent of seats now filled through a fair and open electoral process. These hopes were dashed on April 26, 2004, when Beijing explicitly ruled out the possibility of further democratic reforms.
Even more ominously, this announcement has been followed by a government campaign to end all debate on the matter and intimidate those who support democracy. Anonymous threats against pro-democracy activists have begun to grow and Beijing has reached back to the tactics of Mao Tse-tung’s cultural revolution, labeling democracy advocates "clowns" and "traitors." Mainland-controlled news organs have called leaders of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party "unpatriotic"—presumably including Democratic Party stalwart Szeto Wah, founder of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU) and the 2002 recipient of the AFT’s Bayard Rustin Human Rights Award. Beijing has explicitly warned pro-democracy legislators that proposed resolutions criticizing the government’s stance were "against the law and the constitution." This warning marked the first time that Beijing has directly intervened to try to limit discussion in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, since the handover of sovereignty. Beijing has also sent a naval battle group through Hong Kong harbor in a menacing show of force.
In the face of these developments, the Bush administration’s response has been tepid and rhetorical. It appears that Beijing has taken the true measure of this administration’s commitment to democratic change and proceeded accordingly:
RESOLVED, that the AFT condemn China’s betrayal of the "one country, two systems" agreement that promised to bring increased democracy to the people of Hong Kong.
The AFT further condemn Beijing’s continued attempts to repress the rights of free speech and freedom of association of pro-democracy and worker rights activists in Hong Kong and China.
The AFT reaffirm its strong support for the HKPTU and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) in their struggle to achieve worker rights, recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and a democratic framework by which such rights can be protected.
The AFT call on the Bush administration to strengthen its support for Hong Kong democrats and to live up to its professed commitment to democratic
ideals by recalling its Hong Kong Consul General and raising this issue at appropriate international forums.