Another of many reasons why many Hongkongers don’t trust the Chinese Communist Party.
Stiff rules from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), banning staff who took part in illegal Hong Kong protests from flying over mainland airspace.
Apparently infuriated that some airline staff had taken part in ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong, the mainland regulator cited safety risks as it imposed new rules for Cathay Pacific on Friday.
China’s Global Times, a tabloid associated with the Communist Party’s mouthpiece People’s Daily, described Cathay Pacific’s action as “lukewarm” in an article that seemed to have a threatening tone, citing 9/11 and the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The article raised concerns about “management problems” at the company, saying the airline needed to “draw a line” under its “radical” employees. The article also called for Cathay Pacific to denounce the illegal acts of Hong Kong protesters and to clearly state that it supported the CAAC’s measures – rather than announce it would follow the new rules.
On the same day, the company announced that two Cathay airport employees had been sacked over leaking passenger information about a Hong Kong police soccer team. It also suspended a pilot who has been charged with rioting in Sheung Wan on July 28.
Rebecca Sy On-na, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association (FAA), which has nearly 2,000 members, said that after being briefed by the airline’s cabin crew department head, she was reassured that the CAAC’s vetting of crew lists would have little effect on the airline.
There had been worries that the airline might stop staff who had openly supported the protests from flying, but she said: “The company reassured us there won’t be any special crew list.”
However, the union remains concerned about staff with overnight stays on the mainland. It will advise them not to go out alone to avoid harassment for being Hongkongers, or being detained unexpectedly, which could involve having their mobile phones checked.
Sy said fears that the mobile phones of crew would be searched while they were on board aircraft were unfounded, and both the union and the company had no evidence of that happening.
Jae Woon Lee, who teaches aviation law and policy at Chinese University, described the CAAC action as an “unprecedented punishment.”
“When diplomatic tension arises, airlines, particularly flag carriers, have been targeted,” Lee said.
He cited how Qatar Airways had been blocked from substantial areas of airspace in the Middle East, forcing it to divert flights and extend flying times. Indonesian airlines were also temporarily barred from flying to Europe over safety concerns.
Noting that the CAAC’s action is different from either of those situations, he said: “CAAC does not ban Cathay from flying to China but specifically requires special measures. The sanction will create significant operational difficulties for Cathay.”
Unfair Bullying, Punishment & Tyrannical Tactics by CAAC on Cathay Pacific to Kowtow to the Totalitarian Chinese Communist Party