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Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific employees say they are afraid to speak about ongoing protests amidst tightening regulations

Author: Reuters (UK), Published on: 4 October 2019

“As protests rack Hong Kong, China watchdog has Cathay staff 'walking on eggshells'”, 3 Oct 2019

Since an Aug.9 directive by the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) that called for the suspension of staff who supported or participated in the demonstrations, the regulator has rejected some entire crew lists without explanation, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The rejections have forced Cathay to scramble, pulling pilots and flight attendants off standby while it investigates social media accounts in an effort to determine which crew member has been deemed a security threat, one of the sources said.

Other disruptions have come in the form of a huge jump in the number of plane inspections upon landing, four pilots said.

The flexing of regulatory muscle has contributed to a climate of fear within the airline…

The CAAC’s labeling of employees who support the protest as a security risk and its demand that they be suspended from flying over mainland airspace has been a de facto career killer.

… due to the directive, 30 rank-and-file staff, including eight pilots and 18 flight attendants, have been fired or resigned under pressure, according to the Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation…

The CAAC did not respond Reuters requests for comment on the rejections of crew lists or the increase in plane checks. Cathay said in a statement it must comply with all regulatory requirements. “Quite simply, this is our license to operate; there is no ground for compromise,” it said.

The airline declined to comment on the number of employee departures, but said any terminations took into account factors such as a person’s ability to perform their role.

… after the CAAC’s Aug. 9 directive, the once-infrequent inspections occurred almost daily and included the new and unusual step of checking phones owned by crew for anti-China photos and messages, the pilots said, adding that this had led to flight delays…

Management has urged staff to do their utmost to avoid infractions…

The pilots said the high frequency of airplane checks, which one described as “very intimidatory”, was starting to recede.

… ahead of China’s National Day on Oct.1, immigration officers at some mainland airports requested photos of crew with the Chinese flag, said a pilot at regional arm Cathay Dragon who flies to the mainland regularly…

Cathay did not respond to a request for comment, while China’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees immigration, did not respond to a request for comment during a week of public holidays…

… they lamented the loss of freedom of speech and sense of job security, saying employees are afraid to speak about anything even vaguely political or voice support for protests on social media for fear of being reported by colleagues under a whistleblower policy.

 [Also referred to Emirates, Air China, China CITIC Bank International and Huarong International]

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Related companies: Air China Cathay Pacific