Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific replaced its chief executive officer (CEO) Rupert Hogg on Friday (16 August), thus capping a tumultuous week for the airline after it incurred Beijing’s wrath over the participation of some of its employees in the continuing anti-government demonstrations that have rocked the city over the last 10 weeks, South China Morning Post reported.
Civil Aviation Administration of China, the communist state’s aviation regulator, claimed that the airline jeopardised flight safety by allowing several of its employees to participate in the protest movement.
The airline has so far fired four employees, including two pilots, for participating in the protest.
Paul Loo, the chief customer and commercial officer of Cathay, who was one of 57-year-old Hogg’s deputies, also resigned.
“These have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company,” Hogg said in a company statement.
In a statement released by the company chairman John Slosar said “recent events” had called into question Cathay’s commitment to flight safety and security and put the carrier’s reputation and brand under pressure. It was time to “reset confidence” with new management, he said.
Solar's statement represents a U-turn from the stance taken by the airline earlier. Slosar, last week defended his employees' freedoms even as calls for a boycott of the airline circulated on Chinese social media. However facing pressure from Beijing, Cathay reversed its position.
Beijing reportedly threatened that Cathay will lose the right to fly to and over the Chinese mainland if it failed to act.
Almost 70 per cent of Cathay’s passenger and cargo flights pass through the Chinese airspace, and a large portion of travellers are mainland Chinese. Swire Group and Air China are the two biggest shareholders in Cathay.
Amidst the escalating pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and Chinese pushback, US President Donald Trump has inserted himself into the movement by warning China against carrying out any “Tiananmen Square” type crackdown in Hong Kong.
Trump has warned that any brutal crackdown on the protesters would harm trade talks between the two countries.
“I think it'd be very hard to deal if they do violence, I mean, if it's another Tiananmen Square," Trump told reporters in New Jersey”, said Trump.
A chilling footage of China moving a large package of armed troops in Shenzhen right across the Hong Kong border has been repeatedly broadcast by the state run media possibly to intimidate the peaceful protesters.