Cathay Dragon flight attendant and union leader Rebecca Sy claimed she was fired over Facebook posts about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong Photo: AFP
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Cathay flight attendant says she was fired over Facebook posts on HK protests

21 Comments
By Anthony WALLACE

A flight attendant on Friday accused Cathay Pacific of summarily firing her over Facebook posts linked to Hong Kong's political crisis, adding to concerns about a China-driven witch-hunt to root out pro-democracy supporters at major firms.

The Hong Kong-based airline has been accused of bowing to political and commercial pressure from Beijing by sacking employees in recent weeks for their public support for the massive anti-government movement roiling Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, China's aviation authority ordered Cathay Pacific to stop pro-democracy supporters among its 27,000 staff from working on flights to -- or over -- China, after a general strike drew out some of its staff.

On Friday, Rebecca Sy, who worked for the airline's regional arm Cathay Dragon and is also a union leader, said she was pulled off a rota to fly to China and summarily dismissed the next day on August 21.

Management showed her Facebook posts discussing the political situation, Sy said, but added she was not formally given a reason for her sacking.

"The answer I got was 'I can't tell you why'. This is what I cannot accept," a tearful Sy told reporters, without giving details about the content of the Facebook posts.

"It's not just about my termination. We don't want to lose Cathay, a local Hong Kong airline and its message about the core values of Hong Kong."

"All my colleagues are terrified because of this 'white terror'," she added, using a widely deployed term for Chinese pressure on Hong Kong.

The Chinese flight ban caused Cathay Pacific shares to tumble and sent fears rippling through Hong Kong's wider business community.

The airline has already fired four members of staff associated with the protests -- including two pilots.

In a statement on Friday, Cathay Pacific's corporate affairs boss, James Tong, did not address Sy's dismissal.

But he said: "Recent weeks have been most challenging for all of our people."

"We are a leading international airline... and therefore we are required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the jurisdictions where we operate."

Hong Kong is renowned for its business-friendly environment, rule of law and freedom of expression.

But most major Hong Kong companies have deep business ties with China, the world's second-largest economy.

Also on Friday, hundreds of accountants, most in suits and wearing masks, held a rally in support of the anti-government protests as unexpected sectors of Hong Kong society hit the streets.

Some of us "are afraid of being sacked by the company", an accountant from a top firm said, giving her name only as Kim. "It feels that if we don't walk out today, there won't be a chance for us to walk out in the future."

Cathay Pacific became of the focus of China's vituperative social media after some airline staff joined a pro-democracy strike, including the union representing the carrier's flight attendants.

On August 16, Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg suddenly resigned as the hashtag #boycottcathaypacificairline racked up tens of millions of views.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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Seeing how China is behaving, how can anyone expect the Hong Kong people to keep their freedoms. They should become independent, just like Taiwan.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

What does Xi Jinping have to say about this?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They should become independent, just like Taiwan.

Communism surely knows no limits... once they got the power, it is almost impossible to retrieve the free, peaceful state of things, and they are capable of doing literally anything to stay in power.

I've been from Venezuela to Vietnam, it's always the same thing. In Vietnam, the local looking people are stopped at the entrance of most of their international airports and you wonder why.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Being fired for Facebook posts or verbal comments is not restricted to repressive govts. Unfortunately, there is no protection in many democracies to prevent the boss from firing due to difference of opinion. And the protections that do exist are hard to prove and onus is on former employee to prove while looking for new job.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If someone post any message on his/her account while not representing his/her company he/she works for, then it is his/her own business and should not be fired based on that. Dismiss based on that could result in a wrongful dismissal law suite.

Then, again, we are talking about China here which all businesses are state businesses. Didn't it just say, "all businesses that want to do business in China should toe the party line?" China - Rule of Law?? LOL.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I used to like using Cathay Pacific for business and personal travel but not any longer. I am not going to use them ever again. Disgusting and gutless, kowtowing to the communists like that. From now on its Singapore Airlines all the way.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

And I might add that others in my company who use Cathay Pacific for business travel feel the same way as I do. If my company is representative of other companies, Cathay Pacific will lose a fair number of passengers over their disgraceful actions, in business class at least.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Not sure about the flight attendants, but the 2 pilots who were fired will have NO trouble finding another job. The industry is short on pilots so they will basically choose which airline they want to work for.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

More xenophobia and double standards.

What are  Rebecca Sy motives and who is funding her? NED perhaps?

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

I am not going to use them ever again.

I understand your anger, but I'm not sure Cathay really have a choice; If China chooses to ban Cathay from using Chinese airspace then the whole company would be out of business in no time. 27,000 people would be out of a job instead of a handful. China could simply replace Cathay with one of their own carriers.

What really disgusts me is that China has been able to ban crew from Chinese airspace based on their political views. And that the ICAO or anyone else isn't standing up to them on this matter. Surely this can't be tolerated? Imagine the outcry if the EU were to forbid Brexiteers from using their airspace? Or communits? Or flat earthers? It's an absolute scandal and the one area where the international community & flag carriers of the industry should be getting together and punishing China, because if they get away with it they'll do it again with Taiwan, Vietnam or anyone else who they want to bully.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The Cathay unions should vote on actions to be taken. If they allow their fellow members to be picked off 1 at a time, that defeats the reason for union membership, doesn't it?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Some people from countries without democracy and freedoms can't handle a woman and trade unionist speaking out. Cathay Pacific isn't a Chinese owned company.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

According to local radio, what was posted to a internal group on Facebook was happy birthday wishes in the form of Lennon wall.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So, the assumption here is that Rebecca Sy has been dismissed for her political views, even though exactly what she posted are unknown.

"Management showed her Facebook posts discussing the political situation". At best, she was dismissed for merely 'discussing'.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This woman is a martyr for the freedom of the people of Hong Kong from undemocratic Chinese tyranny. They deserve their freedom - none of them were born under Chinese rule.

Stay strong Hong Kong!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Iran looks own upon the US as a criminal enterprise

A theocratic, backward, butchering regime looking down on a criminal enterprise.

Not a reliable witness, judge.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

People get fired and harassed every day in America for thought crimes. I wish we could slam the ChiComs for such retrograde tactics but the West no longer occupies the high ground when it comes to an individuals right to freedom of speech.

someone advocating violence against a victim who is also a woman.

Violence is bad for both men and women - but I believe in equality of the sexes.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have zero sympathy for her.

She is hardly unique. People from different countries have been routinely fired from work or kicked out of school due to social media posts, whether it be racially offensive or politically charged.

You abide by the company and organization you represent, and claiming that it happened on your off time or freedom of speech doesn't cut it. She was only fired, not tortured or beaten, so find another job.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The Hong Kong-based airline has been accused of bowing to political and commercial pressure from Beijing 

Does this sound familiar

US companies bowing to political and commercial pressure (to stop trading with China) from Trump administration

1 ( +1 / -0 )

moral of the story: post on sensitive topics with a fake and profile. Goodness know I do!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

You abide by the company and organization you represent, and claiming that it happened on your off time or freedom of speech doesn't cut it.

Do you happen to know what she actually said? That would be pretty relevant. So would company rules on the issue.

Posting on social media in itself is definitely not a firing offence, so what is said and how it may implicate the company you work for are crucial in whether termination is justified.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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