Mainland China Retaliates Against Cathay Pacific Over Hong Kong Protests

Last weekend I reviewed whether it’s advisable for tourists to visit Hong Kong as protests there escalate, risking backlash from mainland China.

I concluded that a first time tourist might well choose to reschedule their trip. To be sure Hong Kong isn’t among the more dangerous spots in the world right now. However protests have reached the airport, tourists stumbling into protest areas have reported being gassed, and the situation is volatile. Since I wrote the U.S. and other countries have offered travel warnings. (Though neither United nor American will waive penalties to let you change your plans.)

A week ago China released a video of their military practicing shooting protesters. The latest salvo, though, is aimed squarely at Cathay Pacific: all flights to mainland China or traveling through mainland Chinese airspace must have crew manifests provided to and approved by Chinese authorities in advance.

  • Cathay Pacific crew that have ‘supported’ protests won’t be permitted to work flights entering Chinese airspace.

  • The airline will have to submit a plan to the Chinese government to “strengthen internal control and improve flight safety and security.”

A requirement to avoid Chinese airspace for Cathay Pacific would add time and fuel expense to flights. The airline might choose to exert pressure on employees not to protest and even express support for protests in social media or be penalized by being unable to work.

Meanwhile Chinese media is reporting on state-owned enterprises instructing employees not to fly Cathay Pacific when other airline flights are available.

This is an attack on Cathay Pacific. It’s also an effort to leverage Cathay Pacific’s influence over its employees. And it’s a demonstration of the ability of mainland China to punish Hong Kong companies and workers for defiance.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thank you, Gary.

    We should be thankful for the efforts of Google and Amazon in helping the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) utilize their tech tools like facial recognition and listening devices to track and build profiles on people they deem unworthy; like flight crews. Kudos to Huwei for devices that track and record data on users and their networks; aka spying. Once the PLA moves the “re-educated” Uyghurs out-of-the camps, they can start moving the Hong Kong natives in for similar programing.

    I look forward to other bloggers post bargain fares (State subsidized) to China and more glorious reviews of and other State-owned (Communist) airlines.

    3, 2,1 to the name calling and personal attacks….

  2. What a jerk move on China’s part. Absurd. I hope it strengthens the resolve of the protesters.

  3. The Chinese Communist regime just doxed a Hong Kong-based US diplomat and her children; names and photos. Thank you Google.

  4. On which website can I find a map of airspace? If Hong Kong is surrounded by China airspace, does it mean that China issued an order equivalent to a flight ban that grounds nearly ALL CX flights?

    After all, ”support” is an ambiguous word. Any crew could have supported this, one way or another.

  5. People living outside of Hong Kong don’t fully understand the situation there. One of the CX pilots participated in a riot and was arrested among many others. These rioters have turned violent, and they want independence which will never happen. From China’s point of view, let these hostile pilots and crew members enter Chinese airspace is a safety issue. No one knows when or if these crew members would become extreme and turn the plane into a weapon and cause 911 in China. I live in the U.S. and was born in Hong Kong.

  6. Looks like the Chinese govt is now taking a note from the effective Russian playbook?

    @Pat try a bit harder. You’re not very good at this

  7. @pat-

    As a Pro Beijing troll, are you specialized in counter intelligence? Or, a Covert op/handler based in the US and a member of the global Beijing-based Communist Confucius Society?

  8. Chris – well said, my man. I hope more folks would really think twice and not visit an authoritarian regime like Communist China. To experience traditional culture, democratic Taiwan offers a superb alternative.

  9. Two facts conveniently omitted here:

    1) Only CX employees that were involved in VIOLENT protesting are targeted. Gary tell me something are you endorsing violent protesting now?
    2) Certain CX employees intentionally leaked passenger information (of policy staff members) so that people can look them up and harass them. Again dear Gary are you endorsing this kind of behavior?

    These two facts are not up for debate.

    There’s a reason why travel bloggers should just stick to travels. This article surely proves the point.

  10. @Roger
    Literacy is important. ‘Support’ is a much broader term than ‘involve’. Is this fact conveniently omitted by someone?

  11. My neighbor is a Cathay captain flying the SFO-HKG route. He told me several years ago the Chinese government want to put Cathay out of business

  12. Given that their mainland routes are the only ones turning a profit, CX’s high-handed responses were not…..wise. Hardly surprising that Beijing would like them to be taken down a peg.

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