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 June 12 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 labour group, and several student associations urged members to join the strike and reprise a protest that drew hundreds of thousands.
The US expressed “grave concern” over Hong Kong legislation that would for the first time allow extraditions to mainland China, raising pressure on
Beijing as the city braces for new protests and potential strikes amid a showdown over the proposal.
The bill “could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protections of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters in Washington.
The Hong Kong 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 said.
Opponents want Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, to withdraw the legislation and threatened to organise a bigger, general strike 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 organisers. “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.”
Meanwhile, Lam cancelled a monthly legislative question-and-answer session. Lam’s popularity fell to its lowest rating since she took power in 2017, according to a survey by Hong Kong University’s Public Opinion Programme.
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 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. People claiming to be airline crews and teachers urged strikes in their own organisations online.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters wearing white and calling for Lam’s resignation marched through the centre of the city in one of the biggest mass demonstrations since the city was returned from British rule in 1997.
The extradition bill has been criticised by Western governments and international business organisations as a threat to the “one country, two systems” framework credited with maintaining Hong Kong’s status as a global financial centre.