Kyle Bellamy says it’s vital as an internationalist party that Labour demonstrates its support for the protesters in Hong Kong and against the repression of the Chinese state.

“The Labour Party is an internationalist party founded on a vision of solidarity,” proudly proclaimed Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray last year as part of a retort to then-Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s revelation that a Corbyn government would not block a second Scottish independence referendum. McDonnell, for his part, had not long before this authored an article for Tribune magazine entitled, ‘For a Socialist Internationalism.’

That Labour is an internationalist party is self-evident for members and our representatives. In the examples above, it is used to justify approaches to a domestic constitutional issue and global geopolitics. As socialists, we engage in class-based politics and wear the badge of internationalism with pride. This is doubly true for Scottish Labour members who define ourselves against parties espousing both Scottish and British nationalism.

But if we are willing to claim the mantle of internationalism, we must be justified in doing so; putting class before country requires us to react to injustices and oppression no matter where they take place. Sadly, there is no shortage of examples across our blighted planet and attempting to list them simply leaves one in danger of belittling other worthy causes by leaving them out. Labour members may also be reticent about adopting struggles outwith the UK as our own; the last several years have seen our party riven by debates on foreign policy issues.

With this in mind, I will focus on one issue that is uniting our fractious party: Hong Kong.

Since March 2019, the Hong Kong protests have been seared into public consciousness on a weekly or even daily basis by competing scenes of police brutality and the dignity and courage of the protestors, many of them young people. Viewers do not need to have a thorough understanding of the UK’s colonial rule of Hong Kong, the National Security Law or the nature of the Chinese state to understand that the protestors are fighting for something that we in the UK take for granted, at least for now. As UK-based Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei stated recently: “In the current struggle in Hong Kong, for example, the theory is simple and the faith is pure.”

Last month, campaign group UK Labour Solidarity with Hong Kong hosted an online rally with speakers including MPs Stephen Kinnock, John McDonnell and Nadia Whittome. It was refreshing for Labour members to see Stephen Kinnock, Keir Starmer’s new Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, not only sharing a platform with McDonnell, but also being praised by him for his work on Hong Kong and against the persecution of the Uyghur people. Also on the panel were campaigning journalist Paul Mason and UK-based Hong Kong socialist activist, Promise Li.

The highlight, for any trade unionists watching, was General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, Lee Cheuk Yan speaking from Hong Kong. Lee, who is yet to be charged under the National Security Law, already faces charges of illegal assembly and incitement. The HKCTU organises around 160,000 members and is a key component of the pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong. As a result, the National Security Law specifically targets trade unions and workers rights to organise. It is sobering for trade union activists to hear about the plight of our counterparts and beyond inspiring to know that they continue fighting for what is right, in the face of a massive repressive state apparatus.

What can we do in the short term as Labour members and trade unionists based in the UK? A good starting point is to raise awareness by bringing the campaign’s model motion, available on its website, to your union branch or Constituency Labour Party. The more union branches and CLPs that pass the motion, the more pressure there is on UK union leaderships to speak out in favour of our comrades in Hong Kong.

The right-wing internationally is seizing the initiative when it comes to confronting China and leaving the left on the back foot. To counter their racism and red-baiting, the labour movement needs to articulate a clear internationalist and socialist approach that is supportive of workers struggles in Hong Kong and mainland China and that condemns the brutal treatment of the Uyghur people. This is especially true for the movement in the UK, given our homeland’s past colonial domination of Hong Kong.

Labour members are acutely aware that few political concepts are more divisive than ‘purity,’ especially when it comes to international issues which, while distant, rightly rouse strong emotions. Ai Weiwei is right, however, in calling the Hong Kong struggle pure. It is because of this purity of purpose that MPs and members from across our party are coming together around this issue and, in doing so, are rediscovering our strength as a united movement.

Follow UK Labour Solidarity with Hong Kong on Facebook and Twitter. For more information and to see the model motion, visit the website. All speakers from the campaign’s recent rally can be viewed on YouTube.

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13 thoughts on “Stand up for Hong Kong

  1. Sorry, your attempt to distance Labour from British Nationalism is disingenuous. Labour has made it perfectly clear that it supports the principle of self determination for other parts of the world but stands against it for Scotland.

  2. Scottish Labour members may define themselves as against British Nationalism, but party policy does the opposite. Labour stands shoulder to shoulder with the Conservatives as defenders of the political union that is the United Kingdom.

  3. Kyle, can you illustrate the class issues which are pertinent in relation to the riots in Hong Kong? Can you provide some illumination as to the class agenda that the demonstrators are promoting? Have they voiced concerns for the poor of Hong Kong?

  4. If Labour was truly an internationalist party it would be in favour of holding a referendum on rejoining the EU if it retains power. But no,it is only internationalist in the sense that it wants the different countries of the UK to stay together.

  5. My first of many visits to Hong Kong was in 1965, serving in the Royal Navy. Refugees from the Mainland slept in the streets until they could find work/accommodation. It’s their grandchildren who are fighting for democractic rights, even as they regard themselves as Chinese.
    However a Labour Party which stands with the Tories against the democratic right of Scots to determine their own future, is hardly a vehicle to confront a Chinese State advocating a similar stance against Hong Kong sovereign rights.

    Why is it OK to advocate a second EU referendum (and Theresa May offered one to Labour in 2019), but not a Scottish one (N Ireland is allowed one every 7 years)?

    Whatever happened to the Right of self-determination? Why is it OK for N Ireland but not for Scotland?

    What of the Claim of Right that Scottish Labour signed up to? Presumably a lie or a trick?

    As British nationalism drives the Tory and Labour parties to Brexit separatism and isolationism, I hope Scotland is able to pass on the other lane, to rejoin the world and the international community of NATIONS.

  6. “Labour members may also be reticent about adopting struggles outwith the UK as our own; the last several years have seen our party riven by debates on foreign policy issues.
    With this in mind, I will focus on one issue that is uniting our fractious party: Hong Kong”.

    Very sensible Kyle. Sir Keir will be well impressed. When it comes to ‘Internationalism’, the British Labour Party has learnt its lesson. From now on its going to be ‘Selective Internationalism’ .
    From now on; Hong Kong oppression very bad. Chinese Muslim oppression very bad. Palestinian oppression? well that is a different kind of oppression. Isn’t Kyle?

  7. Excellent article. Pity about the whataboutery from the cybernats above – how they can compare the oppression being suffered by HongKongers with Scotland’s position is all too typical, sadly. We must all support those struggling for democratic rights in Hong Kong in any way we can.

    1. Oppression is oppression no level of oppression is acceptable. If a Country and its people is to be denied a Democratic process or access to their own self determination ANYWHERE then where does that leave them and what does it say about the oppressors? The UK state has a vile history of denying the Democratic process to its Colonies nothing “whitaboutery” about it.

    2. How about democratic rights for Scotland? Remember Labour policy is against the people of Scotland having the right to hold another independence referendum even if pro-independence MSPs win a majority at next years Holyrood elections.

    3. “Democratic rights in Hong Kong”.
      The times I visited Hong Kong it was NOT a democracy: it was governed as a colony (though often appeasing Chinese Communist concerns), and democratic elections were only held in the last few years before the Sino-British Joint Declaration took effect.
      The Joint Declaration transferred sovereign control over Hong Kong to China. As we see in the UK, both Labour and Tory parties take the view that “sovereignty” is a green light to overrule any manifesto, previous political agreement or allow old laws to bind new governments.
      To complain the Chinese do as we do, in this regard, is somewhat hypocritical, but as we see in Scotland, principles are not a strong point for British nationalists.

      I wish Hong Kong, and its excellent population well, but cannot see how they can “win”. They will be aware that the West would dump them in a heartbeat, if western commercial interests coincide with those of mainland China.

  8. Is Hong Kong not a former British colony that was originally part of China and had been returned back to China, would the Labour Party and Trade Unions not be better off concentrating on what’s happening in the UK for example mass unemployment as a result of the UK Government’s initial or should say lack of action with the Corona pandemic. Having seen how life, time and mortality is so unpredictable as shown in the case of the Corona pandemic how about the Labour Party putting in their manifesto an act for repealing the rise in pension age and have an new age of 60 for everybody.

  9. While I would certainly agree with the general sentiment of the article, it’s completely wrong to suggest that it is a class struggle in Hong Kong. Many of the people who are leading the fight are multi-millionaires and Jimmy Lai is actually a billionaire!

    It is quite simply a battle for self-determination. The people of Hong Kong were incorporated into China against their wishes, simply replacing one for of colonialism for another.

  10. Internationalism as long as it doesn’t include Europe!
    Democracy except when it is the Scottish people seeking a Referendum.
    Brexit supporting Labour and anti Scottish self determination.
    Do you not feel a little uncomfortable with your post?

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