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Hong Kong Unions Protest Airline Dismissals

Demonstrators hold signs opposing the recent firings of Cathay Pacific employees during a demonstration at the Edinburgh Square in Hong Kong, Aug. 28, 2019.
Demonstrators hold signs opposing the recent firings of Cathay Pacific employees during a demonstration at the Edinburgh Square in Hong Kong, Aug. 28, 2019.
Hong Kong Unions Protest Airline Dismissals
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Members of trade unions in Hong Kong have protested against Cathay Pacific Airways after the company dismissed employees for their links to pro-democracy protests.

Several hundred union members took part in a demonstration in central Hong Kong. Some held signs that said “Revoke termination” and “Stop Terrorizing CX staff.” CX is the short identifier for the airline.

The dismissals have raised fears among many in Hong Kong that pressure from mainland China is increasingly influencing the territory’s separate legal system.

Several employees dismissed

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions said that 20 Cathay Pacific Airways employees had been dismissed or forced to resign. The group includes pilots, crew, ground staff and supervisors.

The union group called for the protest after Cathay Dragon, part of Cathay Pacific Airways, dismissed cabin crew union head Rebecca Sy last week.

Sy said she was given no reason for her dismissal. But she said her experience sends a clear message to the people of Hong Kong: What is important is not whether you broke the law, but whether you are doing what you are told to do.

“Where is the freedom of speech or democracy?” she asked.

Cathay Pacific confirmed the dismissal of several employees in the past two weeks. In a statement, the company said it cannot comment on individual cases. But it said it considers all relevant issues, including regulatory requirements, when deciding whether to dismiss an employee.

China’s civil aviation authority announced restrictions on airline employees on August 9. It said that Cathay Pacific employees who “support or take part in illegal protests, violent actions, or overly radical behavior” had been banned from flights to mainland China. Chinese officials also said that the airline must submit identification details of crew members traveling to or over mainland China for approval.

James Tong is Cathay Pacific’s Director of Corporate Affairs. He said, “We fully support the upholding of the Basic Law and all the rights and freedoms afforded by it.” The Basic Law is the constitution that governs partly self-ruling Hong Kong.

However, Tong said the airline was required to observe all rules and duties, including those from mainland China. “The airline must do this; there is no room for compromise,” he added.

The airline said that Chief Executive Officer Rupert Hogg resigned this month to take responsibility for the recent events.

Hong Kong International Airport was forced to close earlier this month after protesters demonstrated in the arrival building and fought with police. Hundreds of flights were cancelled over about two days.

China’s central government has strongly criticized the protests. The demonstrations have continued in many parts of the city for more than two months.

The demonstrators at first sought the withdrawal of an extradition bill that is now suspended. Protesters said the law permitting Hong Kong to send suspects to the mainland for trial would further harm the territory’s special legal rights, known as “one country, two systems.”

After the bill was suspended, protesters demanded fully democratic elections and an investigation of police methods used to break up demonstrations.

I’m Mario Ritter Jr.

Johnson Lai reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

revoke –v. to officially cancel

termination –n. the process of dismissing someone from a job

relevant –adj. relating to a subject in the correct way

regulatory –adj. related to making official rules about business activities

radical –adj. having extreme political or social views that most people do not share

afford by –v. to supply or provide for

extradition –n. the process of sending a person accused of a crime to another state or country for trial

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