Protests in Hong Kong against China flexing their political muscle have continued to grow in the past few weeks. Recently, the protesters took over Hong Kong International Airport, shutting it down for a couple of days for most flights. At that time, Cathay Pacific, the flagship airline of Hong Kong agreed to Chinese demands regarding their employees. In part, they agreed to submit lists of employees that would be flying to China and over Chinese airspace. They also agreed not to let any employee who has been involved in the protests fly to or over China. At the same time, some high-ranking Cathay Pacific officials said they would not dissuade employees from protesting.
Cathay Pacific CEO Resigns
This morning we received news that Rupert Hogg, Cathay Pacific’s CEO, has resigned. No clear reason has been given, only a cryptic statement by the airline:
“Recent events have called into question Cathay Pacific’s commitment to flight safety and security and put our reputation and brand under pressure,” said Cathay Chairman John Slosar in a statement. “This is regrettable as we have always made safety and security our highest priority.”
The CEO also released a cryptic statement:
“It has been my honour to lead the Cathay Pacific Group over the last three years,” Hogg said in a statement. “I am confident in the future of Hong Kong as the key aviation hub in Asia. However, these have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company.”
Gizmodo is reporting that the news of the CEO’s resignation appeared on Chinese media before Hong Kong news, and that the chairman of Cathay Pacific acknowledged China’s control of Hong Kong in a statement:
Curiously, the news of Hogg’s resignation was first announced by Chinese-state media outlet CCTV and not Hong Kong media. A statement from Cathay Pacific’s chairman was posted to another Chinese-run media outlet, CGTN, that referred to Hong Kong politics and not to the personnel changes at the airline:
“Cathay Pacific fully supports Hong Kong’s implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle and we have full confidence in Hong Kong’s bright future,” said John Slosar, chairman of Cathay Pacific in the statement.
The Final Two Pennies
The protests in Hong Kong have been compelling to watch. It’s one thing to see people protesting for rights they believe in. It’s another to see governments force the hand of companies as a result.
It seems likely that the CEO was forced out by the board in an effort to quell criticism. Whether from China directly, or from Cathay Pacific’s largest shareholder, where an official has publicly condemned the protests. It’s a sobering reminder of the difference in style of government in the United States versus other places in the world. I have no idea how the protests in Hong Kong will end. However, it feels like we’re watching a very important moment in history.
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