HONG KONG – (AP) – Hong Kong’s largest teachers’ union said it broke up on Tuesday due to the changing political climate as the government continued to crack down on dissenting opinions in the city.
The Hong Kong government cut ties with the pro-democracy union last week, accusing them of spreading anti-Beijing and anti-government sentiment. The split came hours after Chinese state media described the union as a “malignant tumor” that should be eradicated.
The vocational teachers’ union is the city’s largest single union with 95,000 members.
“Unfortunately, changes in the social and political environment in recent years have forced us to think about the future and some of the recent rapid developments have put us under tremendous pressure,” the union said in a statement on Tuesday.
It said it would stop accepting new members and refund renewals submitted by current members. It will also lay off 200 employees and dispose of its assets, and will soon cease its medical center services and social centers that have been selling discounted goods to members.
The closure of the teachers’ union is the latest aftermath of efforts by the Hong Kong authorities to root out dissent in the city. In the past two years, numerous political groups and the pro-democracy Apple Daily have shut down because they feared they might be targeted under a comprehensive national security law passed by Beijing last year after months of protests against the government Violence. Over 100 pro-democratic figures have been arrested under the law.
Critics have criticized crackdown on dissenting opinions, saying the former British colony is losing the freedoms it was promised when it was handed over to Chinese control in 1997.
That year, Hong Kong changed its electoral laws to reduce the number of directly elected MPs and to give a largely pro-Beijing committee the leeway to nominate Beijing-oriented MPs.
Separately, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday expressed her support for a law allowing retaliatory sanctions after the US and other Western governments punished city officials for cracking down on democracy activists.
Lam said the anti-foreign sanctions law should be passed through local laws in Hong Kong rather than being imposed by Beijing, and she has shared her views with the Chinese government.
Lam’s support for Hong Kong’s anti-sanctions law came after China introduced a comprehensive anti-sanctions law in June. Anyone affected by retaliatory sanctions could face visa restrictions, property confiscated or frozen, and barred from doing business with Chinese companies or individuals in China.
The law comes after the US sanctions dozens of Chinese and Hong Kong officials – including Lam – for their role in suppressing Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“There are external forces or foreign governments or Western media who would use the opportunity to weaken our status as an international financial center and weaken trust in Hong Kong,” said Lam.
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