Former Hong Kong healthcare union founder sent back to jail over social media posts

Winnie Yu is awaiting trial for 'subversion' after taking part in a democratic primary in the summer of 2020.
By Jojo Man
2022.03.10
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Former Hong Kong healthcare union founder sent back to jail over social media posts Winnie Yu, a nurse and founder of the now-disbanded healthcare union, the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, for public sector healthcare workers, in an undated photo.
Winnie Yu

Authorities in Hong Kong have revoked bail for former healthcare union chief and democracy activist Winnie Yu, putting her back behind bars on International Women's Day.

Yu, 34, had been out on bail awaiting trial for "subversion" under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

She is among 47 defendants charged with the same offense in connection with an unofficial democratic primary election in the summer of 2020 that was deemed to be an attempt to overthrow or undermine government power because it aimed to maximize the number of pro-democracy members of the city's Legislative Council (LegCo).

Soon after the primary, the government announced that LegCo elections slated for September would be postponed to December 2021, and rewrote electoral rules to ensure that only candidates loyal to the government and the CCP would be allowed to stand.

The Hong Kong national security police issued a statement on March 7 saying that a 34-year-old woman had her bail revoked "on suspicion of violating her bail conditions."

Media reports later identified the woman as Yu, a nurse and founder of the now-disbanded healthcare union, the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, for public sector healthcare workers.

Yu was arrested after reporting as required to her local police station, the reports said.

She had been granted bail by the High Court on July 28, 2021 on condition that she refrain from "directly or indirectly making, distributing or reproducing in any way any remarks or related acts that violate the national security law or that amount to crimes of national security under Hong Kong law."

Yu was also proscribed from "directly or indirectly organizing, arranging or participating in public or private elections of any level in any way, except by voting, contacting foreign officials, parliamentarians or members of parliament at any level and other persons serving the above in any way, directly or indirectly, and leaving Hong Kong."

Yu's bail was revoked because of posts she made to social media criticizing the government's handling of the current wave of COVID-19 in the city, which has left nearly 3,000 people dead and hospitals overwhelmed.

The national security law judge at the bail hearing found that Yu had violated the conditions of her bail, and couldn't be sure she wouldn't do so again.

As Yu left the court, she called out to her supporters in the public gallery: "Take care of my cat for me!"

Her jailing came as top Chinese lawmaker Li Zhanshu praised the electoral changes that followed the democratic primary, saying they ensured the city is being "administered by patriots."

"The new system provides fundamental political and institutional safeguards for good governance of Hong Kong," Li told the annual session of China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC).

Meanwhile, Hong Kong politician Tam Yiu-chung, who sits on the NPC standing committee, said Li's comments suggested that further electoral changes could be in the pipeline.

"There’s no mention of any concrete details," Tam said in comments reported by government broadcaster RTHK. "I believe maybe something is still being studied. If the NPC standing committee needs to enact laws, we’ll do it."

"These are matters for the central government to decide," he said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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