Raised in the Catholic community in Shek Lei, Tang currently serves as secretary general of the International Domestic Workers Federation. She moved to the UK in September 2021, but recently travelled to Hong Kong to visit her husband who has been in jail for more than two years because of his fight for democracy. She was arrested upon leaving the prison charged with violating Beijing’s national security law. Released on 11 March on bail but with the withdrawal of her passport.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Elizabeth Tang, a well-known member of Hong Kong’s Catholic community and a prominent union leader, was detained after leaving the prison in which her husband, Lee Cheuk-yan, is incarcerated.
Like him, she was arrested under China’s national security law, the draconian legislation Beijing imposed on Hong Kong to crush the local pro-democracy movement.
Lee Cheuk-yan is a former Member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) and a former leader of the organisation that every year held a memorial vigil for the victims of Tiananmen Square.
He was arrested on 18 April 2020 along with other prominent pro-democracy advocates on charges of inciting subversion in connection with the 2019 protests. Their trial is still ongoing and they face up to ten years in prison.
Elizabeth Tang grew up in Shek Lei parish and served as executive secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions until 2011, one of the many organisations forced to disband in 2020 after the passage of the national security law.
In September 2021, she moved to the United Kingdom, after she was personally attacked by pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao for allegedly receiving funding from foreign organisations as a board member of the Asia Monitor Resource Centre, a labour rights advocacy group.
This was a clear case of intimidation against a woman who is still general secretary of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), an organisation that advocates for the rights of domestic workers with affiliates in 68 different countries around the world.
Elizabeth Tang has always been a leading union activist working on behalf of domestic workers in Hong Kong. The Asia Monitor Resource Centre reacted to Ta Kung Pao attack by saying that it was “independent of any local or international organisations” and that it would cease operations in Hong Kong amid pressure that had “intensified significantly.”
As a cautionary measure, Tang moved to the UK to continue her work with the IDWF, but was arrested after visiting her husband in Stanley Prison. Police stopped her when she left the prison and forced her into a waiting car.
Tang's arrest comes a few days after Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee met in Beijing with the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Bureau, Xia Baolong.
According to Lee, who was in the Chinese capital for the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, Xia told him to “nip in the bud” any act that endangers national security.
“We will definitely crack down on any [forces] trying to undermine national security or breach the peace of Hong Kong society, or [hurt] Hong Kong’s overall interests – and hold them legally responsible under the law,” Lee said.
UPDATE OF 11 MARCH 2023
On 11 March morning, Elizabeth Tang was released after paying a bail of 200,000 Hong Kong dollars (about 24,000 Euros). Her passport was revoked and she will therefore not be able to leave Hong Kong and take part in the International Domestic Workers Federation engagements, as was her plan. On leaving prison, she told reporters that she did not understand how her activities could pose a threat to national security in Hong Kong.