Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions
|Founded||17 April 1948|
|Headquarters||12 Ma Hang Chung
Kowloon, Hong Kong
|Membership (2014)||Over 400,000|
|Regional affiliation||Pro-Beijing camp|
1 / 33
5 / 70
29 / 458
|NPC (HK deputies)||
2 / 36
2 / 124
|Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions|
|Alternative Chinese name|
|Politics and government
of Hong Kong
|Related topics Hong Kong portal|
The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU; Chinese: 香港工會聯合會) is a pro-Beijing labour and political group established in 1948 in Hong Kong. It is the largest labour group in Hong Kong with over 390,000 members in 189 affiliates and 62 associated trade unions. Presided by Lam Shuk-yee and chaired by Ng Chau-pei, it currently commands five seats in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and 29 District Councillors.
Being one of the oldest existing labour unions in Hong Kong, the HKFTU has a long tradition of following the command of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the ruling party of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It took a leading role in the Hong Kong 1967 Leftist riots against the British rule and was suppressed by the colonial government. In the 1980s, the HKFTU took the vanguard role in opposing faster democratisation in Hong Kong with the conservative business elites during the run up to the Chinese resumption of Hong Kong sovereignty in 1997.
The HKFTU leaders became the founding members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB), today's largest pro-Beijing party, in 1992. Since the late 2000s and early 2010s, the HKFTU resumed its independent banner in the elections with more pro-grassroots and pro-labour stances, distant from the DAB's pro-middle-class and professionals outlook.
The main slogans of the HKFTU are "patriotism, solidarity, rights, welfare and participation". The group focuses on the rights and welfare of workers, supporting the workers in their negotiation with employers and to resolve labour disputes. It works to amend legislation to protect labour rights and prevent employers from exploiting loopholes in labour laws. It opposes importation of foreign labours and calls for legislation against age discrimination.
Politically it espouses a strong sentiment of nationalism. It supports the governments of the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It allied with the Hong Kong government on many issues but has a pro-grassroots stance on livelihood and labour issues, such as demanding more measures to reduce unemployment. Due to its government loyalist nature, industrial militancy has been remarkably absent from the HKFTU's action programme.
In addition, the HKFTU also operates 5 retail outlets to provide discounts to its members in a variety of goods, and provide training, medical and other services to members at discounted rates. It also extends to include catering, travel agencies services and credit card facilities.
The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, then known as the Hong Kong and Kowloon Federation of Trade Unions, was formed by the pro-Communist trade unionists in 1948, at the same time as its rival, pro-Nationalist Hong Kong and Kowloon Trades Union Council (TUC), was set up in the midst of the Chinese Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists in Mainland China. It was registered as non-union "friendly societies" under the Societies Ordinance in order to avoid the restrictive provision in the newly introduced Trade Union Registration Ordinance of 1948. During the 1950s and 60s, the HKFTU functioned as industrially based "friendly societies" or craft-based fraternities and provided benefits and other supplementary aids to the veteran members who was under the threats of unemployment and low pay. It contested with the TUC in industries, trades, and workplaces under the "left-right" ideological divide in that period.
The relations between the HKFTU and the colonial government remained tense. The union activities were under strict restriction from the government. Inspired by the Cultural Revolution, the HKFTU escalated labour disputes into the anti-colonial government riots in 1967. Many labour activists and HKFTU cadres were imprisoned and deported. Due to its violence and bomb attacking campaign, the HKFTU suffered serious setbacks in both public esteem and official tolerance. During the riots the HKFTU also boycotted participation in any officially appointed consultative bodies by the colonial government until Beijing's Communist government adopted the economic reform in the late 1970s.
Transition to 1997
In the background of the 1980s shifts of the political economy in the Mainland China and the negotiations on Hong Kong's political status after 1997, the HKFU readjusted its policy toward the colonial government. The democratic reform introduced by the government also opened an access to political power for the trade unions. In first ever Legislative Council election in 1985, representatives from the HKFTU, Tam Yiu-chung, and the TUC were elected uncontestedly to the two newly created seats in the Labour functional constituency. Tam Yiu-chung continued to serve as the member of the Legislative Council until was succeeded by Cheng Yiu-tong in 1995.
On the other hand, as the most massive grassroots organ of the pro-Beijing bloc the HKFTU also assumed a vanguard role to resist the pre-1997 democratisation. It opposed to the possible direct Legislative Council election of 1988 with the slogan of "Hong Kong workers want only meal tickets but not electoral ballots." However, during the Hong Kong Basic Law drafting process from 1985 to 1990, the HKFTU had to repudiate its demands on rights of union recognition and collective bargaining in the Consultative and Drafting Committees dominated by tycoons. The HKFTU's devotion to Beijing and its collaboration with the conservative business interests were challenged by some leftist unionists.
In the beginning of the 1990s, the HKFTU began more involved in politics to counter to the emerging pro-democracy parties such as the United Democrats of Hong Kong (later transformed into Democratic Party) and its ally the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU). Chan Yuen-han represented for the HKFTU to run for the 1991 Legislative Council direct election but was defeated by the Lau Chin-shek, the pro-democracy labour activist representing the United Democrats of Hong Kong. In 1992, the first pro-Beijing party the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) was co-founded by the HKFTU members. HKFTU began to mobilise supporters to vote for the DAB candidates in the Legislative Council elections.
In 1997 after the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the HKFTU's representatives joined the Beijing-controlled Provisional Legislative Council to roll back several pre-handover labour rights laws passed in spring 1997 by the colonial legislature controlled by the pro-democracy camp, which included the collective bargaining. The Provisional Legislative Council also enacted new electoral rules to disenfranchise some 800,000 blue-, gray- and white-collar workers in the nine functional constituencies created from Chris Patten's electoral reform. The number of eligible voters in the Labour functional constituency was reduced from 2,001 qualified union officials in 1995 to only 361 unions on a one-vote-per-union basis for the first SAR elections in 1998.
The HKFTU has been a vocal supporter of the Central and SAR governments, its then-president Cheng Yiu-tong has also been non-official member of the Executive Council since 2002. During the early years of the SAR administration, HKFTU members ran in direct elections under the banner of the DAB. Since the 2008 Legislative Council elections, Chan Yuen-han and Wong Kwok-hing ran as a HKFTU member independently without DAB and carried a more grassroots and pro-labour rights agenda. In the most recent Legislative Council elections in 2012, the HKFTU filled candidates in four of the five geographical constituencies and veteran Chan Yuen-han contested in the territory wide District Council (Second) constituency. In the 2015 District Council election, the HKFTU had 29 candidates elected (two under both DAB and FTU banners), 2 seats less than the last election. The HKFTU has risen as the third-largest political group in the Legislative Council today and had currently 29 HKFTU representatives elected on the District Councils.
Legislative Council elections
| % of
1 / 60
1 / 60
1 / 60
3 / 60
4 / 60
6 / 70
5 / 70
Note 1: Each voter got two votes in the 1991 Election.
Note 2: Before 2008 the HKFTU had a joint-ticket with DAB.
District Council elections
| % of
2 / 264
4 / 272
1 / 390
0 / 400
15 / 405
24 / 412
29 / 431
List of leadership
- Chan Yaocai, 1957–1980
- Yeung Kwong, 1980–1988
- Lee Chark-tim, 1988–2000
- Cheng Yiu-tong, 2000–2012
- Lam Shuk-yee, 2012–present
- Chu King-man, 1948–1949
- Cheung Chun-nam, 1949–1951
- Chan Man-hon, 1951–1954
- Chan Yaocai, 1954–1957
- Lee Sang, 1957–1962
- Yeung Kwong, 1962–1980
- Poon Kwong-wai, 1980–1986
- Cheng Yiu-tong, 1986–2000
- Wong Kwok-kin, 2000–2009
- Ng Chau-pei, 2009–present
- Ng, Sek Hong (2010). Labour Law in Hong Kong. Kluwer Law International. p. 225.
- Kuah, Khun Eng; Guiheux, Gille, eds. (2009). Social Movements in China and Hong Kong: The Expansion of Protest Space. Amsterdam University Press. p. 210.
- Kuah 2010, p. 207.
- Kuah 2010, p. 207-8.
- Felber, Roland; Grigoriev, A.M.; Leutner, Mechthild; et al., eds. (2013). The Chinese Revolution in the 1920s: Between Triumph and Disaster. Routledge. pp. 213–5.
- Kuah 2010, p. 208.
- HKFTU web site (traditional Chinese (HK))