HONG KONG • Hong Kong labour unions and students are seeking support for a strike against national security legislation that China plans for the city, aiming to reignite a protest movement that has lost momentum because of the pandemic and the increasing threat of arrest.
A representative for the organisers said booths opened across the city at 10am yesterday, seeking to attract at least 36,000 signatures to go ahead with a general strike - a daunting task given that the participating unions have only about 14,000 members.
Separately, the Secondary School Students Action Platform affiliated with prominent activist Joshua Wong said it has started asking students to sign up for a mass boycott of classes, targeting 6,000 people to take part.
The referendum represents the latest effort by the pro-democracy camp to gain momentum for a campaign that has floundered this year.
Despite its long odds of success, the event has drawn public condemnation from various mainland and Hong Kong authorities in its run-up, signalling that it was being particularly scrutinised by Beijing.
The move comes at a sensitive time. The controversial new national security law for Hong Kong has fuelled fears that the Asian financial centre's unique freedoms are being further eroded.
China yesterday unveiled details of the proposed legislation, which includes a national security office in Hong Kong to collect intelligence and handle related crimes, Xinhua news agency reported.
Some political commentators say the law is aimed at sealing Hong Kong's "second return" to the motherland, after Britain's 1997 handover failed to bring residents of the restive city to heel.
"What's most worrying is (the draft law) lacks details when it comes to specific criminal action and that remains highly vague," said pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung. "More importantly, it's almost like Beijing's hand is right in the centre of the administrative and judiciary wing of Hong Kong."
Beijing proposed the new law last month, drawing a swift rebuke from Britain and the United States.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would in future treat Hong Kong as a Chinese city, rather than a semi-autonomous one, and that the US was working its way through a decision-making process over who would be held accountable over curbs to Hong Kong's freedoms.
Underscoring global concerns over the move, the European Parliament on Friday voted in favour of taking China to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if Beijing imposes the security law on Hong Kong.
China has repeatedly warned foreign governments against interfering in its internal affairs.