Indicators: Asian Activists Join Forces Against WTO

Hong Kong protesters and South Koreans join march at Hong Kong WTO meeting

photo by Bullit Marquez
International trading hub HongKong saw massive protests against the World Trade Organization's meeting there in December.While the protests did not succeed in causing the collapse of the meetings, as they did in 1999 and in 2003, they did link grassroots activists from around Asia to share strategies.

Billed as a “development round” to discuss agreements to help developing countries harmed by unbalanced global trade, the meetings resulted in few concessions from developed countries. Europe and the U.S. agreed to set a 2013 target date for eliminating agricultural export subsidies, a small fraction of total subsidies, which Third-World countries claim increase poverty and hunger in poor countries.

Seasoned activists from Korea, long used to facing riot police, joined Hong Kong protesters in disobeying police orders against marching toward the convention center. Using a trademark protest technique, the Koreans marched by bowing, kneeling on the pavement, rising to their feet and taking three steps, then bowing again. Although protesters were barred from coming within sight of the convention center, the four-hour procession drew the city's attention.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullet sat marchers when they neared the convention center and arrested 1,300 people who were staging a sit-in. Mostwere later released without charge, but 14 protesters received formal trials for unlawful assembly. Six days later, supported by a wave of international solidarity actions, all but three were released with all charges dropped. Three Korean activists are still being charged for unregistered and unlawful assembly, with their hearing set for March.

Activists also created a parallel forum to discuss alternatives to WTOpolicies. More than 130 groups participated in sessions that included an international youth dialogue, a women'sforum, union and farmers' meetings, and workshops focused on fair trade, food, and public services for all.

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