The Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union (HKPTU) has announced that it would begin the process of disbanding "with immediate effect." The announcement and a letter to the union membership were posted on the HKPTU website on August 10.

The Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) noted that mainland China's state-run People's Daily and the Xinhua news service had called the teachers' union a "poisonous tumor" requiring eradication. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), a U.S. government-funded broadcaster, the decision to disband seemed to be an attempt to dissuade the police from investigating the union and freezing its assets.

The Hong Kong Education Bureau had ceased to officially recognize the teachers' union on July 31, noted Global Times, a pro-Beijing newspaper. The paper said the union had a lengthy history of "anti-China and trouble-making activities."

According to the South China Morning Post, the government of mainland China is insisting that Hong Kong officials investigate the union's past activities. The paper said that since the August 10 announcement the union leadership had taken measures to accelerate the process of dissolving the organization. The Global Times said the dissolution of the union would not eliminate the possibility of an investigation.

In the letter to its membership, the union said refunds would be given to teachers who had recently renewed their membership.

It also said the union "will no longer comment on and participate in social affairs." The union had "been driving the pro-democracy movement for decades," according to Nikkei Asia.

Amnesty International sees teachers living in fear

Joshua Rosenzweig of Amnesty International was quoted by the HKFP as saying the union’s decision to disband reflected fear among the city’s teachers.

Discuss this news on Eunomia

The Hong Kong and Chinese governments were apparently “ramping up attempts to wipe out civil society groups that have a strong mobilizing capacity,” he added. Rosenzweig went on to say that there were worrisome implications for those labor unions still active in the city.

On Twitter, Amnesty International said that the dissolution of the teachers' union "highlights the rapidly shrinking space for freedom of expression in schools & universities in Hong Kong."

Possible domino effect

Ivan Choy, a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told RFA the death of the union would "have a huge impact on other civil society organizations." He added that if the large teachers union could not survive under the present political conditions, "others are going to find it harder still." He told RFA there could be "a domino effect."

The HKFP noted that last year's introduction of the national security law in Hong Kong had led to the closure of a number of civil society groups.

The news organization said the Neo Democrats, Médecins Inspirés, the Progressive Teachers' Alliance and the Lawyers Group had become inactive after enactment of the law.

Despite worries, journalists are 'doing our own jobs as usual'

One day after the teachers' union announced it was dissolving, Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association spoke to RTHK, Hong Kong's public broadcaster. Chan expressed concern that his organization might be the government's next target. He told RTHK that his organization had done nothing wrong and had no intention of violating the national security law "so we're just doing our own jobs as usual." The RTHK noted Chan's organization and the Confederation of Trade Unions had expressed their determination to continue functioning until that became impossible.