Cathay Pacific has been forced to quickly distance itself from comments made by two unions that represent its cabin crew following a day of bloody and increasingly violent protests in the airline’s home of Hong Kong. Under pressure from Beijing, Cathay Pacific attempted to reassure its mainland Chinese market that the opinion of its flight attendants was not “endorsed” by the airline and “should not in any way be construed as representing the views of Cathay Pacific”.
As pro-democracy protests stretch into their sixth month, protestors took to the streets on Monday in an attempt to block traffic and stop public transit. Footage of a traffic police officer shooting an unarmed demonstrator yesterday morning went viral and emboldened many protest sympathisers to take to the streets later in the day. The student is said to be in a critical but stable condition.
In another incident, police officers on motorbikes drove through a crowd of demonstrators, while this morning there has been widespread disgust at the actions of Hong Kong police who pepper-sprayed and then hit an unarmed and pregnant woman with a baton.
On the opposite side, a man was doused in petrol and set alight by the demonstrators because he disagreed with their point of view. The shocking attack has been likened to a “terrorist attack” by Beijing’s English language government mouthpiece The Global Times.
The Cathay Pacific Flight Attendants Union (FAU) blasted the Hong Kong police force, saying it had deployed “reckless and indiscriminate tactics” against demonstrators.
“We feel deeply saddened to see Hong Kong citizens suffering from serious injuries as a result of escalating police brutality. We hereby strongly condemn the HK government and HK Police force for failing in their primary duties to guarantee the safety of Hong Kong citizens,” a statement posted to the union’s Facebook page read.
It is a pregnant woman whom they pepper sprayed and forced to the ground!! Outrage!!! pic.twitter.com/tuRr3PDFug
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) November 12, 2019
Police in Hong Kong shot a demonstrator point blank as pro-democracy protests go into their 24th consecutive week pic.twitter.com/GTkutABT9O
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 12, 2019
The statement marks a major change in the union’s response to the protest movement after being put under pressure not to comment on the political situation.
In a separate statement, the Hong Kong Dragon Flight Attendants Association, which represents flight attendants at Cathay Dragon, said it “strongly condemns the unnecessary violence of police officers, and also urges the government to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and give them a reasonable punishment.”
The remarks are the first released by the union following the news that its chairwoman, Rebecca Sy had been sacked by the airline for posting comments in support of the protest movement on her private Facebook profile in August. Rebecca had worked for Cathay Pacific for more than 17-years when she was dismissed without notice.
While also condemning the actions of violent protestors, the unions called on Cathay Pacific to protect its staff and make arrangements for crew who felt it was too unsafe to get to work.
Cathay Pacific hasn’t said what action it will take to support its flight attendants but said it was “deeply concerned by the ongoing violence and disruption impacting Hong Kong.”
Following a similar line as it has done in recent months, an airline spokesperson said: “We resolutely support the HKSAR Government, the Chief Executive and the Police in their efforts to restore law and order.”
“We condemn all illegal activities and violent behavior, which seriously undermine the fundamental principle of “One Country Two Systems” as enshrined in the Basic Law. We must act now to stop the violence and preserve the stability, peace and prosperity of Hong Kong.”
Cathay Pacific has sacked an “increasing number” of cabin crew in recent months for publicly supporting the protest movement. Some sources suggest as many as 200 flight attendants had been sacked but this number was dismissed by the airline.