Cathay Pacific urged to clear Hong Kong stance as trade union protests

By Shen Weiduo and Li Xuanmin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/24 23:28:41

Chinese analysts and passengers have called on the Cathay Pacific airline to clarify its position and "not engage in political activities that violate the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region."

The response came after a trade union representing its cabin crews said Tuesday it was disappointed at the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)'s handling of the extradition bill and was calling for a protest at Hong Kong International Airport on Friday.  

Cathay Pacific said in a note sent to the Global Times Wednesday that it was not the organizer of the event, adding that it was billed by the event initiator as a gathering of people within the airport community and not an industrial action.

Analysts said this note was too vague and not a sufficient separation of itself from the event and the union.

The union is a non-government organization and it does not represent Cathay Pacific, Qi Qi, an independent market watcher told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that the carrier should thus clarify its position by denouncing the move and officially separate itself from the union.

Trade unions represent the interests of employees of certain companies, but this kind of political event is not simply a matter of protecting employees' rights and interests, said Wang Jun, chief economist at Zhongyuan Bank.

"We will never accept that Cathay Pacific, as an airline with a UK background, will tolerate the union's organization of political activities that violate the Basic Law of HKSAR and irrationally engage in such activities," Qi said.

UK-based John Swire & Sons is the majority stakeholder in Swire Pacific, which is Cathay Pacific's principal shareholder with a 45 percent shareholding. 

The other major shareholder is Air China. 

Cathay Pacific is reciprocally one of the major shareholders of Air China.

"Do not let the behavior of individuals affect the normal operation of Cathay Pacific or influence its official stance," Qi said.

The trade union's post drew criticism from Chinese mainland travelers and internet users on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo platoform, some of whom said they would say goodbye to Cathay Pacific if it did not clarify its stance by denouncing illegal activities.

"Getting out of China! Refund out tickets!" an angry Chinese user posted on Cathay Pacific's Weibo account. Some also called for China's ticket-booking service providers to stop cooperating with the air carrier. 

"If you want to fail your business, we're more than pleasant to give you a ride," posted Weibo user Shenshouliubai.   

A Shenzhen-based regular passenger of Cathay Pacific, who often takes a Cathay Pacific connecting flight to overseas destinations, told the Global Times that he would boycott the airline and choose other carriers, such as Southern Airlines, if the company did not deal with the matter in a swift and convincing manner. The passenger refused to be fully named.

"To appeal to the huge domestic consumer market, the company needs to respect Chinese laws and most importantly, the principle of 'one country, two systems','" he said. "This is the bottom line, not to mention putting your personal safety at risk as you're being served by a group of hostile flight attendants of Cathay Pacific."

The carrier now accounts for more than 80 percent of the aviation market in Hong Kong, after completing the acquisition of low-cost rival HK Express in March, according to media reports. 

Chinese mainland industry observers warned that the claimed "peaceful" protest on Friday will definitely affect the normal operation of Hong Kong airport and seriously taint Hong Kong's image among international tourists, impacting their confidence in Hong Kong.

"It will fundamentally slow down the local tourism and aviation industry's development in the long term,." one said.


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