Airline CEO resigns over staff involvement in Hong Kong protests
The CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways has resigned after news emerged that some of the airline’s employees, including a pilot, were involved in anti-Beijing protests that have taken over the city.
The sudden departure of Rupert Hogg comes amid growing concerns about the economic impact of public demonstrations that have seen millions of people swarm Hong Kong’s streets and temporarily shut down an international airport.
Business analysts are beginning to worry that Hong Kong, considered one of the top financial capitals of the world, may be in trouble if the unrest continues.
“We’re under a lot of pressure at this point in terms of our economic development,” Raymund Chao, the chairman for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Asia Pacific and Greater China, told CTV News. “If you look at the violent activities over the last two months that we’ve seen in Hong Kong, it’s adding to that pressure.”
Last week, Beijing issued a warning that Cathay Pacific employees who took part in the protests or supported them would be banned from flying to mainland China. Before Hogg resigned, a pilot who was charged with rioting was removed from flying duties.
The protests began in June as a reaction to a proposed bill that would allow extradition of individuals from Hong Kong to China.
Critics saw the bill -- which has since been scrapped -- as another sign that China was attempting to exert excessive control over the former British colony, which has retained its own governance, laws and financial systems under a “one country, two systems” principle with China.
Now, after 10 weeks of demonstrations, protesters are calling for a more democratic system of governance that gives greater autonomy to Hong Kong.
So far, 29 countries have issued travel advisories for Hong Kong in connection with the protests. Hong Kong police have been seen using batons and tear gas on protesters. A Canadian man who lives in the city compared the unrest to a war movie.
And there are signs that the situation may become worse. Chinese paramilitary police and dozens of armoured personnel carriers have been seen at a stadium next to a bridge that links Hong Kong with mainland China.
If Chinese authorities cross the bridge into Hong Kong, there are fears that the protests could become even more violent.
But George Irwin, a Canadian CEO of a toy manufacturer that has done business in China for decades, doesn’t think that’s likely.
“Are they going to do anything to jeopardize the flow of cash into Chinese coffers by coming into Hong Kong and putting the world on notice?” he said.
Canadian hedge fund manager Edward Chin worked on Bay Street for a decade before returning to work in Hong Kong. He says the extradition bill is to blame for businesses moving their money elsewhere.
“Most people were concerned that if you do business in China, someone could frame you of a certain wrongdoing,” he said.
Already, retailers in Hong Kong are being warned to expect double-digit declines in July and August.
Hong Kong’s financial woes come amid broader international concerns about economic slowdown. Earlier this week, economists began to worry about the possibility of a looming global recession after new numbers showed poor industrial growth in China, an economic contraction in Germany and a particularly unsettling yield curve inversion in the U.S., which some analysts consider a recession bellwether.
In the meantime, protesters show little interest in slowing down. The next demonstration is being organized for Sunday.
With files from The Associated Press