Over the past week the airline has emerged as a target on the mainland after some of its 27,000-strong workforce took part in, or voiced support for, the protests.
It also ordered the carrier to hand over identity information for employees on mainland-bound flights — declaring unapproved flights would not be allowed in.
Executives scrambled to reassure authorities that the company has no truck with the demonstrators, vowing to sack any employee who takes part in an “illegal protest”.
It has since fired two employees, suspended a pilot linked to the demonstrations and said it will comply with China‘s regulators.
But the move was not enough to avoid the crosshairs of China‘s staunchly nationalist Global Times tabloid and the People’s Daily — the Communist Party’s mouthpiece.
Cathay’s “sins”, the papers said, were that it had not done enough to investigate or condemn staff who took part in protests.
“Blacklist this airline from now on,” wrote one user.
– ‘Cathay Pathetic’ –
A protester blockade of the airport this week deepened the airline’s woes, forcing it to cancel 272 flights, and affecting the travel plans of 55,000 people, it said.
Analysts said Cathay is acutely vulnerable to any potential censure from Beijing.
“They are so heavily reliant on the mainland Chinese market,” noted Brendan Sobie, chief analyst for the Centre for Aviation.
He said a fifth of the company’s flights are to, or from, the mainland while Chinese passengers make up some 80 percent of passengers on flights to other markets.
The pressure sent Cathay’s shares into a nosedive, losing nearly five percent at the start of the week.
The company has swung into damage limitation mode.
Swire Pacific — a Hong Kong-based conglomerate and Cathay’s largest shareholder — released a statement saying it “strongly supports” the Hong Kong government and “(shares) the vision of the Chinese Central government”.
“We resolutely support the Hong Kong SAR Government, the Chief Executive and the Police in their efforts to restore law and order,” the company said, adding that it would comply with any regulations Beijing placed on it.
Cathay released a similarly worded statement on Wednesday.
But while Cathay’s moves may be intended as balm for Beijing‘s anger, the airline has hardly endeared itself to the protest movement, which enjoys a measure of support among the seven million people who call Hong Kong home.
In it he renamed the airline Cathay Pathetic — the opening C turned into a communist hammer and sickle.
Some of those inside the company now say a climate of fear has descended with many worried their own colleagues may be spying on each other’s political views.
“And many colleagues are actually pointing people out, saying they might send lists to the company about who supports these illegal protests. That makes everyone really afraid,” she added.
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Stranded passengers voice support for Hong Kong protesters
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 13, 2019
Travellers in Hong Kong‘s airport voiced support for pro-democracy demonstrators on Tuesday, despite an overnight occupation of the international transit hub that saw tens of thousands of passengers stranded.
The airport, one of the busiest in the world, reopened on Tuesday morning but hundreds of flights remained cancelled and several hundred protesters returned for a fresh rally on Tuesday afternoon.
Monday’s abrupt closure came 10 weeks into a crisis that has seen millions of people take to H … read more