A Chinese State-owned newspaper has said Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific “will pay a painful price for its actions and position on the riots in Hong Kong” following weeks of protests in the city over a controversial extradition bill. The English-language Global Times is largely seen as a mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party and reflects Beijing’s position on a number of issues. The inflammatory editorial appeared as news emerged that China had imposed a number of new restrictions on Cathay Pacific, as well as the airline’s pilots and cabin crew operating on flights that fly to mainland China or through mainland China. The new measures that take effect today (10th August) include: • Any crew member who has taken part in anti-ELAB protests will not be allowed to operate flights to mainland China • Crew manifests for any flights that fly through Chinese airspace must be sent to authorities for review and approval • Cathay Pacific must work with the Chinese civil aviation authorities on new internal security procedures
The measures could have a huge impact on Cathay Pacific and has the potential to ensnare hundreds of crew at the airline. Beijing will be conducting background checks on all employees who fly to/through Chinese airspace and could bar any crew member who has shown sympathy for the anti-ELAB movement on social media. Effectively that means not only mainland China will be off-limits for some crew but also most of Europe, as well as Japan. The Chinese authorities have been highly critical of Cathay Pacific for not doing enough to distance itself from the protest movement which has since grown into a larger call for universal suffrage in the Chinese territory. The Global Times published comments suggesting Cathay Pacific should be “severely punished” for its stance on the demonstrations and has even suggested the airline has “encouraged” its employees to hurt the rights of passengers. That threat came after news emerged in the last few days of a Cathay Pacific staffer who managed to leak the travel details of a group of Hong Kong police officers who were travelling to China for a soccer game. Cathay Pacific apologised for the incident and said it did not condone the behaviour of the employee. Around 3,000 staffers at Cathay Pacific are estimated to have taken part in a general strike protest in Hong Kong on Monday – the authorities have demanded Cathay Pacific no longer “tolerate behaviour that jeopardizes passenger security” but the airline says its respects the rights of its employees to lawfully protest even if that means ticket sales might be hit. Meanwhile, Beijing is said to be furious that the official Cathay Pacific flight attendants union has backed the protest movement, suggesting the new ‘security’ measures are simply a tit for tat retaliation. Earlier this week, Cathay Pacific reported healthy profits for the first half of the year but warned that forward booking are down because of fears about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.