Labour Secretary Law Chi-kwong has warned that the authorities may cancel the registration of trade unions as part of the government's new duties under the national security law.
His warning comes as the Labour Department plans to seek legislators' approval to create a new post to ensure trade unions comply with the security law.
Writing on his official blog on Sunday, Law said the Beijing-imposed legislation required the government to strengthen education, supervision and regulation of social organisations.
He said the Labour Department would formulate corresponding measures to improve trade union members' understanding of national security, as well as to supervise their works.
"If individually-registered unions are suspected of violating the Trade Unions Ordinance, the registrar will follow up, and depending on the results, it could cancel the union's registration," he wrote.
Law added that the registrar could investigate even if there wasn't a complaint, as the Labour Department had a responsibility to take the initiative.
An alliance of unions said it wasn't surprised by the move, and accused the government of trying to control public opinion and freedom of speech.
The alliance also questioned whether the work of the new chief labour officer would overlap with police.
It warned that after targeting political parties, student unions and trade unions, authorities may then turn their attention to public organisations, NGOs, and private companies.
If a union has its registration cancelled, it would effectively cease to exist.
Separately, Law said new applications for trade unions had been arriving like a 'tsunami', with some 1,500 in the first three months of the year – compared with just 16 for the whole of 2018. Last year, authorities received more than 4,200 applications, with the majority still not processed.
Labour chief's national security warning to unions
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