Civil service union formed during HK protests becomes first to disband in response to oath-taking rule

19-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

A civil servants’ union formed during the 2019 anti-government protests in Hong Kong has become the first to disband since it became a requirement for public sector workers to pledge allegiance to the city and its mini-constitution.

Union for New Civil Servants chair Michael Ngan Mo-chau announced the move in a Facebook post late on Saturday night and said the disbandment was in response to the oath-taking requirement which could result in some members having to leave the government.

The Civil Service Bureau on Friday asked all employees hired before July 1 last year to make the pledge by mid February. The government earlier made it mandatory for those who joined from July 1 to sign a declaration pledging allegiance. Those who refuse to sign could be asked to leave their posts.

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“According to what the government has said, it is expected that officers of the union might not be able to remain in the government, meaning they will also not be qualified to be union members and officers,” Ngan said.

“Therefore, we must make use of the remaining time to handle members’ information and resources to ensure they are properly managed.

“On the other hand, in view of a possible situation of insufficient officers, to protect members’ information, disbanding the union is a reluctant but necessary action.”

A crackdown on dissent within the ranks of the civil service has been escalating ever since thousands of employees joined anti-government protests that erupted in June 2019 over a since-abandoned extradition bill.

All 180,000 civil servants in the city will be required to sign a declaration that they will uphold the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the government. Senior civil servants, such as department heads, will also be asked to take an oath.

Ngan, whose 3,000-strong union had clashed with the government on a number of issues, said many Hongkongers had sensed that the “space of living had been greatly reduced” in the past six months.

“As chair, my biggest consideration is the personal safety of union officers and the information of members,” he said, without elaborating.

According to a video clip released on Friday featuring Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen and the permanent secretary for the bureau, Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan, acts considered to be in violation of the declaration included expressing opinions contrary to the government in an official capacity.

Civil servants who had taken the oath were also expected to support government policies, including implementation of the national security law.

Ngan first came to the public’s attention in August 2019 when he co-organised a rally for public sector workers to voice their opposition to the extradition bill. The government formally withdrew the bill in October that year.


Category: Hong Kong

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