Saturday, 23 November 2019

China orders airspace ban on Cathay Pacific staff who support Hong Kong protests

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BEIJING: China’s aviation regulator demanded that Cathay Pacific prevent airline staff who have shown support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong from working on flights to the mainland or routed through Chinese airspace.

The regulator also ordered the city’s flag carrier to handover identity information of staff on mainland-bound flights starting Sunday – declaring unapproved flights would not be allowed in.

Cathay Pacific appears to have become a target after some of its crew joined protests and media reported one of its pilots had been charged with rioting.

The airline’s flight attendants’ union put its name to a joint statement with other aviation industry employees on Monday backing the protests, after some of its members joined a general strike.

In return, Cathay Pacific has endured a fierce backlash on the mainland.

A #BoycottCathayPacific thread on Chinese social media platforms has attracted more than 17 million views and 8,000 comments, partly fuelled by articles from the powerful state-run press.

Pro-democracy protesters have staged two months of increasingly violent protests in the financial hub, which Beijing has viewed as a challenge to its central rule.

Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar on Wednesday defended his workforce and freedom of thought.

“We employ 27,000 staff in Hong Kong doing all sorts of different jobs,” Slosar said at a press conference following the release of company results which showed the protests had impacted inbound bookings in July.

“You would easily imagine that within that 27,000 we have virtually every opinion on every issue… we certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.”

But the Chinese regulator has demanded that from Saturday, the airline stop all personnel involved with or supporting the “illegal protests” from flying to the mainland or in China’s airspace.

By August 11, the airline must start submitting crew identity information for everyone flying to or over the mainland, the regulator said.

Before August 15, the regulator demanded Cathay submit a report on planned measures to “strengthen internal control and improve flight safety and security”.

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