By Tejo Pramono(*) in Hong Kong
In the busy afternoon of Hong Kong city last week, the shouts of “down-down WTO” were competing with the noise of the vehicles. More than three weeks after the end of the VI ministerial conference, people were still organising marches protesting against the WTO. Some international activists who went back home last December were back to Hong Kong to join the protests. Yes, the struggle against WTO is not over.
The 14 protester who were brought to court by the Hong Kong government contributed to sustain the struggle against the WTO. Not only in Hong Kong but also in the rest of world thanks to the massive solidarity campaign for their release.
On January 10, on the eve of the court hearing, no less than 100 Hong Kong people started a hunger strike right in front of the Kwun Tong Court. They decided to stay there during the cold winter night in solidarity with the 14 protestors. Elizabeth Tang, coordinator of the Hong Kong People Alliance, was among the hunger strikers. They set up a tent under the traffic light at the corner of the court wall, precisely like the tent that was set up a week earlier by 11 Korean hunger strikers charged by the court.
The Hong Kong people in hunger strike demanded the court to release all the protestors without charge. They expressed their solidarity in such a strong action because they felt that the 14 protestors struggled against the WTO to defend the rights of hundreds of millions of poor peasant and workers around the world. Such a trial is not an appropriate treatment for people who came to Hong Kong to release millions of people economically and socially prisoners of the WTO policies.
When the court began at 3 PM Hong Kong time, the room was packed with supporters : Hong Kong people in a hunger strike, some international solidarity missions and some local social movements’ organization as well as ordinary citizens. The tribunal dropped the charges for 11 of the 14 protesters.
Three other people remained charged with unlawful assembly because the prosecutors said that they had enough evidences for the prosecution. But as the Lunar New Year was approaching, they were released on bail and were allowed to go back home to stay with their family.
As the court session finished that evening, people in the room cheered and clapped at the release of 11 comrades. The room was full of joy. The 14 protestors were holding flowers offered by the people of Hong Kong. They thanked everyone for the support they were given during their struggle.
That night, none of protesters felt hungry like the nights before. A warm porridge was waiting for them on the table in the top floor of the church under the moon that was almost full. As they finished their modest meal, the protesters of the Korean Peasants League and of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, with some of their leaders, made a circle and started sharing their experiences. They all expressed their feelings and some funny experiences that happened to them during the detention or the hunger strike. One farmer said that he could feel how deep the love of Hong Kong people was during the December struggle. He felt that this love got even stronger during the campaign for their release.
Mr. Kyung Sik Moon, the President of the Korean Peasant League, made a very moving speech. He said that they were happy because they had an opportunity to extent their stay in Hong Kong for the struggle against the WTO. “The struggle in December during the WTO ministerial meeting was a victory for the peasants’ movement because peasants were in the front line of the struggle”, Moon said. He added that the detention of farmers protesters even made the struggle stronger : as the ministerial meeting was coming to an end, the struggle was spreading worldwide. There were solidarity actions for their release in about 20 countries of the world.
The next court hearing will be on March 1, 2006. The three protestors still charged and their supporters are now collecting evidences to show that they are not guilty and that the charges are a total mistake. They appeal to the peasants organisations and other social movements to organise new actions on March 1 to show to the world that it is the WTO who should be brought to jail and not the peasants.
(*) Tejo Pramono is a technical staff of the International Operative Secretariat of La Via Campesina