Hong Kong: Hong Kong retailer Alan Li shut up shop on Wednesday, joining about 100 businesses and numerous workers in a rare strike to protest against an extradition bill that many fear will undermine freedom and confidence in the commercial hub.
“Even though we can’t do business for a day, for me there is nothing more important than defending our freedom of speech and freedom of thought,” said Li, 38, before closing his Alca & Co shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, a shopping district across the harbour from Hong Kong’s high-rise finance centre.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators surrounded Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday, forcing it to postpone a second round of debate on the bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial. Up to a million people took to the streets on Sunday, protest organisers estimated, to denounce the bill in the biggest protest the city has seen for years.
More than 100 shops announced strikes in social media posts. Businesses included retail store Gethemall, transport start-up Call4Van, coffee shops, bookstores, electronics and clothes shops, eateries and florists. “Ah, that pesky Hong Kong spirit is rearing its ugly head again,” Bleak House Books said in a Face-book post announcing its strike.
The action by businesses and workers underlines the extent that the extradition bill has struck a chord in the city.
Li has been selling wedding and formal dresses designed by his wife since 2015. With five staff, they keep the shop running seven days a week and normally only take a break for Chinese New Year. He said he was uncomfortable involving his business in politics but had to make a stand.
“If the extradition law is passed, the fears we will need to face will be even more horrible,” Li said. “The reason so many people invest in Hong Kong is because we are governed by the rule of law … if the extradition law passes, I believe investors will leave.”
China denies accusations it tramples on human rights and official media has blamed “foreign forces” for stirring up the protests.
Stanley Ho, education secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Union, which has about 190,000 members, said his union had encouraged its members to strike. The Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation also issued a strike call and ground staff at the city’s airport said some colleagues did not show up or called in sick. There were no signs of flight delays, border queues or other disruption. The total number of workers who went on strike was unclear. The last strikes in Hong Kong were in 2014.