Cathay Pacific warns it could fire staff for supporting 'illegal protests'

Cathay Pacific warns it could fire staff for supporting 'illegal protests'

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong
File photo of a Cathay Pacific passenger plane landing at Hong Kong's international airport. (Photo: AFP / Dale DE LA REY)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific warned its staff on Monday (Aug 12) that they could be fired if they "support or participate in illegal protests", as the airline comes under pressure from Beijing.

The warning follows new regulations imposed by China's aviation regulator requiring Cathay Pacific to submit manifests of staff on flights to the mainland or through its airspace.

Beijing told the airline that staff involved in the protests that have gripped Hong Kong for more than two months would be banned from flights to the mainland.

The airline has already said it will comply with those regulations, citing the importance of its business in China and the requirement to adhere to local rules.

READ: Cathay Pacific suspends pilot, fires 2 ground employees over Hong Kong protests

READ: Hong Kong mops up after weekend of violence, braces for more protests

But in a Monday message to staff, chief executive Rupert Hogg reiterated that Cathay Pacific employees would also face "disciplinary consequences" if they get involved in the protests.

"Cathay Pacific Group has a zero tolerance approach to illegal activities. Specifically, in the current context, there will be disciplinary consequences for employees who support or participate in illegal protests," Hogg wrote.

"These consequences could be serious and may include termination of employment."

READ: Hong Kong police unveil water cannon trucks after new protests

Hogg also specifically warned employees not to support or participate in a new protest at Hong Kong airport called Monday.

And he reminded staff that the "actions and words of our employees made outside of working hours can have a significant effect on the company".

The airline cancelled more than 150 flights last week as a result of a strike linked to the unrest, and bookings have dropped since the protest movement began 10 weeks ago.

READ: Would China risk another Tiananmen in Hong Kong?

The protests in Hong Kong have infuriated Beijing and left Cathay Pacific in a difficult position.

It has already suspended a pilot who has been accused of rioting after allegedly participating in the Hong Kong protests.

And it said on Saturday that it had fired two airport ground staff, without specifying why. Local media reported that they were accused of leaking the travel details of a Hong Kong police football team that was travelling to the mainland.

The firm's shares dropped more than 4 per cent in Hong Kong trade on Monday, and it is facing a boycott call in China.

A #BoycottCathayPacific thread on Weibo attracted more than 17 million views and 8,000 comments last week.

Source: AFP/gs