Anti-WTO protesters launched a consulate-hopping street march Thursday in Hong Kong, stopping at several foreign offices to tell officials that free trade is hurting workers in developing countries. The peaceful demonstration included dozens of people, mostly garment workers and maids, from the Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. They beat drums and chanted, "Long live international solidarity," as officials gathered for a third day of talks at the World Trade Organization meeting a few blocks away.
The protest route included the consulates of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and the U.S. Norman Uy Carnay, a Filipino labor activist, said that the WTO's free-trade policies allow the dumping of agricultural products in developing nations' markets. This bankrupts farmers and forces them to move to cities, where there's not enough work, he said. Eventually they have to leave their families and find work overseas, he said.
"Our governments' involvement in the WTO has brought a lot of displacement to our people and it's forcing us to migrate abroad," said Carnay, a program coordinator for the Mission for the Filipino Migrant Workers Society.
WTO chief Pascal Lamy has acknowledged that free trade hurts some, but he has argued that the majority benefit. He has also said that no poor nation has become wealthy without trading.
In another protest, about 60 fishermen from the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia marched through Hong Kong's streets. Some opposed the reduction of subsidies. One of them had "Stop WTO" painted on his chest in big white letters.
Protesters have been holding street marches each day since the WTO began its six-day meeting on Tuesday. South Korean farmers have been dominating the events by battling with riot police. So far, no arrests or serious injuries have been reported, reports the AP. I.L.