Protesters Denounce Cathay Pacific for Bowing to Beijing Pressure, Firing Staff

By Jeremy Sandberg
Jeremy Sandberg
Jeremy Sandberg
Jeremy Sandberg is a New York based reporter originally from British Columbia, Canada. He focuses on Wall Street and other business news.
August 28, 2019Updated: August 29, 2019

HONG KONG—Hundreds of Hongkongers gathered in the city’s central financial district on Aug. 28 to protest Cathay Pacific Airways bowing to Beijing pressure by dismissing crew for participating or supporting demonstrations against the communist regime’s encroachment.

The city’s flag carrier sacked 20 pilots and cabin crew since China’s aviation regulator earlier this month demanded it suspend staff from flying over its airspace if they were involved in, or supported, the protests.

Speakers at the rally held in Edinburgh Place condemned the firings as creating “white terror,” a phrase used to describe anonymous acts that cause an atmosphere of fear.

For three months Hong Kong has been rocked by mass protests, which started in opposition to an extradition bill that would allow people to be transferred to the mainland for trial and has since ballooned into wider calls for democracy.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman takes part in a rally held by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions after a number of crew members in the aviation industry were let go for joining the anti-extradition bill protests, in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 28, 2019. (Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)

Freedom of Speech

Rebecca Sy, the former head of a flight attendants’ association, said she was fired for posts made on her personal Facebook account showing support to the protesters.

Sy said many of her colleagues had become afraid of voicing their opinions and had taken steps to conceal their political stances, such as by deleting their Facebook and other social media accounts.

“We didn’t do anything wrong, you should stand up to defend your freedom of speech, and defend yourself and also for everyone,” Sy said in an interview with NTD.

Two weeks ago, Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg resigned, reportedly after he refused to provide a list of names to the Chinese regime of staff involved in the protests.

‘White Terror’

Lee Cheuk-yan, general secretary of rally organizer Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) told NTD that Cathay is creating “White Terror” among its workers.

“It is outrageous that when the Chinese airline authority put pressure on Cathay Pacific, and then Cathay Pacific starts to sack people, dismiss people, not because of anything wrong with their work,” said Lee. “But it’s all about after work, especially their freedom of speech.”

Lee said the confidence of foreign investors will also be affected, destroying the city’s status as an international financial hub.

The Chinese Communist Party’s threats to a private enterprise, Lee said, amounted to an intervention in the city’s “one country, two systems” framework—a policy that guarantees Hong Kong autonomy and freedoms inherited from British colonial rule.

Foreign investors in Hong Kong will soon “have to follow the Communist Party rules,” Lee said.

“Further down do we have to set up a Communist Party cell inside the company?” he said. “That is what is happening.”

Ryan Lo, a former officer of VIP services of Hong Kong Airlines told NTD that he was also fired for posts he made on Facebook in support of the protests.

“We are not doing any violent stuff or anything that breached Hong Kong law,” Lo said.

“They are limiting our freedom of speech.”

At least 20 pilots and cabin crew have been fired, according to the HKCTU.

Following the rally, protesters marched to the headquarters of Swire Group, the airline’s largest shareholder, to deliver three demands: for Cathay to rehire employees fired over the protests, protect workers’ freedom of speech, and cease the climate of the white terror among staff.

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