China orders Cathay Pacific to suspend staff backing Hong Kong protests

By Noah Sin and Stella Qiu

China's aviation regulator has demanded Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways suspend personnel who have engaged in illegal protests in the city from staffing flights into its airspace from August 10.

Hong Kong has been embroiled in increasingly violent anti-government street protests for the past two months, which a top Chinese official described this week as the greatest crisis since its return from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Last week, a Cathay pilot was among over 40 people charged with rioting for allegedly taking part in violent clashes with the police near Beijing's main representative office in the city.

On Friday night, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said that Cathay crew who have engaged in the protests pose a threat to aviation safety in mainland China, according to a statement on its website.

The aviation authority ordered Cathay to provide identification information for its crew on mainland-bound flights.

Crew members that have not gained the authority's approval will not be allowed into its airspace, including on flights bound for other destinations.

The airline has also been ordered to draw up proposals to strengthen safety and security, said the statement.

In response, a Cathay Pacific spokesperson said: "We have received the directive and are studying it very carefully. We are treating it seriously and are following up accordingly."

"The safety of our passengers is always the top priority of Cathay Pacific. There is zero tolerance for any inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour that may affect aviation safety. We deal with these incidents very seriously."

Cathay said on Thursday it respects "everyone's right to express themselves in a peaceful and respectful manner," while insisting it "recognises that Hong Kong SAR is a part of China".

"We do not condone any activities that jeopardise the stability of Hong Kong," it said.

On Monday aviation workers joined a strike that gridlocked Hong Kong, forcing airlines, including Cathay, to cancel hundreds of flights.

Responding to a question on the protests at a press conference earlier this week, Cathay chairman John Slosar said the company respects its staff's opinions.

"We certainly wouldn't dream of telling them what they have to think about something. They're all adults, they're all service professionals. We respect them greatly," he said.

Global Times, published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily, ran news stories this week highlighting Cathay employees' participation in the ongoing protests.

Embattled Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam on Friday urged an end to the violence, claiming that the protests are dragging on the city's economy.

Hong Kong-listed Cathay is 45% owned by Swire Pacific and 22.7% held by Air China , according to Refinitiv Eikon.

The airline has been Hong Kong's flag carrier since the colonial era. Swire Pacific's parent, John Swire & Sons Ltd, is a UK-based conglomerate with businesses ranging from property to transportation.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Don't think I'll ever fly Cathay again if they follow through with that order.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

@Haaa Nemui

Agree 100%. I'm due to fly back with them from England in a couple of weeks, so it's too late and too costly to do anything about that, but if they do follow through, then it'll be my last Cathay flight.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Communism at its best this is why Chinas Military expansion has to be stopped yesterday..,..

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Did China really request CX to suspend the staff? There are other news which report that China told CX that Staff that took part in violent protests - like one CX pilot - and several flight attendants are banned from flying into China and/or on transit routes crossing China. Since HKG's airspace falls under the Civil Aviation Administration of China they have to follow this order or CX can be banned/closed completely. Cathay does not have much choice but could still employ the staff on ground. The main reason for this strict order is safety which everybody can understand. If a pilot hates China so much he could certainly also be a very dangerous terrorist threat. Just remember Malaysian Airlines flight several years ago where most probably the pilot was on a suicide mission and took hundreds of passengers with him.

It will be interesting to see whether more HK companies where employees took part in the 'black riots' will follow soon. This is at least expected by many. It looks like time for repay has arrived.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

One has to remember that the protests are against "The Chinese Communist Party" rather than the "Chinese". The CCP is forcing these Laws upon the HK'ers before the end of the transition period.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

China has already forced Qantas, Cathay etc. to declare Taiwan to be part of China, or lose their permission to operate into China, so this is part of a bigger pattern.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

lucabrasi - if you truly cared, money wouldn't be an issue - just take one for the team. But as usual, people end the social issues when it affects their wallets.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

@ Janet Toop

 if you truly cared, money wouldn't be an issue - just take one for the team.

Tell you what, let's me and you swap places, shall we? You obviously have a considerably higher income than do I and probably most on this thread for you talk about taking one for the team this way. Personal finance in issues like this must ALWAYS takes precedence....just not in your ivory tower, I guess.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Chinese people need to decide if they want a govt that ties their jobs to their political activities, social networking, and their freedom of travel. Oh, wait, there is no freedom to travel in the mainland.

I've never flown on Cathay. They are just a pawn here.

I bet this is how Chinese vendors will be told to insert spying modules into their networking equipment by the CCP, except there won't be a public announcement.

Cathay could call China's bluff and only use crews who were part of the protests, if they are willing. Then every person on the flight would have a story to tell their families for why they weren't allowed to land on the mainland. Print up some short papers with explanations to hand to the passengers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


It’s not just a question of a hit to my wallet; I literally couldn’t pay for another ticket right now. And I’m due back at work at the start of September. And my wife (possibly) wants me back : )

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Hello again, Janet.

Another thought: I’ve already paid for the ticket. Cathay have my money.

Refusing to fly with them would do nothing to hurt Cathay but leave me considerably worse off.

How would that benefit the protesters?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hello lucabrasi, it's ok either way you won't be flying Cathay anymore as they appear to be obliging to the request. It's not like they had a choice, their livelihood relies on access to China's airspace, so it was either oblige or go under.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And then we have to believe Huawei was with no link to communist party spying...

China in all its (wrong) splendor.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is perfectly legal to protest in Hong Kong-not against the law as the article states!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This sort of behavior makes China look bad to the rest of the world, but dictator Xi doesn't care. Like all dictators, he is primarily concerned with holding onto absolute power, and how he looks is much less important.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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