Cathay Pacific is urgently investigating an open letter supposedly written by a group of the airline’s employees which supports the huge protest movement that has gripped Hong Kong. The letter criticises the Hong Kong government, warns of Chinese “political suppression” of Cathay Pacific and claims freedom of speech has been destroyed.
The letter reaffirms a number of demands made by protestors in recent weeks, including a call for universal suffrage. Cathay Pacific, which is desperately trying to distance itself from the protest movement, said it is taking the letter “very seriously” and had opened an urgent investigation.
Under pressure from Beijing, the airline has already lost its chief executive and chief commercial officer. The former CEO Rupert Hogg said he was resigning from his post because he took “responsibility” for the past few “challenging weeks” but it’s widely believed Hogg’s resignation was ordered by China for his ambivalent attitude to the protest movement.
Beijing has taken aim at a number of prominent Hong Kong-based businesses in a bid to exert control over the protest movement. A number of companies have been forced to denounce the movement and publicly acknowledge their support of the government and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
Cathay Pacific has made several statements calling for a restoration of the status quo after intervention from Beijing. The airline has been forced to comply with these demands or face retaliation that would make doing business in China (one of its most important markets) almost impossible.
The airline has been forced to hand over the name of all flight crew operating on flights to, from and through mainland China. Any staffers associated “overly radical behaviour” must be suspended and two pilots have already been sacked because of their connection with the protest movement.
After weeks of silence, the Cathay Pacific flight attendants union has issued a public statement asking its members not to bring their political views to work. The union had previously supported the protest movement but now says flight attendants should be “extra cautious” in order to protect their jobs and the very future of the airline.
Flight attendants have been warned to sanitise their social media accounts and to remove anything even remotely controversial from their handbags and luggage after in-depth customs checks at certain airports. “You are advised to be well prepared to avoid undesirable consequences,” a memo sent to flight attendants warns.
More massive protests are expected in Hong Kong on Sunday and throughout the next week. It remains to be seen whether Cathay Pacific has done enough to distance itself from the movement.