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Asia’s Richest Man Reviled on Hong Kong’s Labor Day

Hong Kong’s Labor Day was celebrated today and thousands decided to spend it pushing for the rights of dockworkers who have been on strike since March. 2013-05-01 05:32 PM EST

What was a protest of a few hundred dockworkers exploded into a protest of thousands.

On May 1, Hong Kong’s Labor Day, protest organizers say 5,000 people turned up to support the dockers’ demands for higher wages and better working conditions. The workers say they haven’t had a pay rise in a decade, despite working for the world’s third-largest container port, owned by the richest man in Asia, Li Ka-shing.

[Lee Cheuk-Yan, Organizer]:

"So it's really very shameful that Hong Kong being the richest, or one of the richest cities in the world, and Li Ka-shing being the eighth richest person in the world, under his regime, there are such shameful working conditions of 24 hours work, no lunch break, no toilet break, and very low working wages. So I think, people, in a way, even in Hong Kong, without a strike, they don't even realize there are such horrible working conditions.”

Crowds lined the street, shouting slogans and wearing red banners. There were also cardboard cutouts of Li and Hong Kong’s unpopular Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying standing beside a prop of a worker being squashed by a machine.

[Bear Keung, Labour Party Staff]:

"Today we want to express how the bosses are like two-faced men. To the public, they appear as humans, but in front of our worker friends, they are something completely different, like a joker, a demon, or a wolf. They drink our blood and exploit our wages. Workdays become longer, but our wages never keep up to speed with inflation. So today we wear these costumes to mock Hong Kong employers."

Today also coincides with the implementation of a recently approved minimum wage hike. Wages will go up two Hong Kong dollars, or 26 cents US.

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