Cathay Pacific was forced to take a knee to the Chinese state during 2019 protests, with its Chief Executive forced out by regulators. The airline which has been shrinking drastically due to the pandemic also took on greater state influence along with the receipt of billions in subsidies.
Now there’s a new Chinese airline forming out of Hong Kong, expected to partially launch in four weeks, with an explicit aim of celebrating – and fostering – the turn of Hong Kong away from the west and towards the Chinese Communist Party.
That’s because “China wants to keep Hong Kong. They just want to get rid of the Hongkongers” through its National Security Law and crackdown on democracy (and LGBT rights) in the city.
Greater Bay Airlines plans to make its inaugural flight – a charter to Beijing – on October 1, the 72nd anniversary of the Communist Party takeover of China. Here’s how the airline introduces its purpose,
Greater Bay Airlines was established in response to the Central Government’s national strategy for developing the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and the integration of Hong Kong into Chinese Mainland’s overall development.
Founded by Bill Wong, an investor with property interests in Hong Kong but stakes in businesses largely in the mainland especially nearby Shenzhen, Greater Bay Airlines will be a low cost carrier operating Boeing 737-800s. His Donghai Airlines operates Boeing 737-800s as well.
The bet for Greater Bay Airlines – and President Xi Jinping – is that Hong Kong’s future is in turning inward, integrating into southern China and the “Greater Bay Area” of Hong Kong, Macau and major cities in Guangdong. They’ll fill finance positions from the mainland, and make Hong Kong a Chinese rather than world city.
To me this is truly depressing. My formative years saw David Hasselhoff singing “Looking for Freedom” atop the Berlin Wall (1989) and Scorpions singing “Winds of Change” (1991) as the Soviet Union prepared to fall. It was an optimistic time filled with hope for the future of people around the world who would be able to write their own destinies as they saw fit, and a time when it seemed the U.S. itself might even be inspired by it.
Frank Fukuyama wrote about “The End of History” first as an article (1989) and then a book (1992) speculating that we had reached a point of victory for humanity where liberal democracy had triumphed for good.
Yet 1989 wasn’t entirely triumphant. It’s been 32 years since ‘Tank Man’ stood athwart the People’s Liberation Army of China, in what seemed like an historical moment for that nation. We’ve seen much economic liberalization yet personal liberty has remained restricted.
Looking back the hopefulness of this era seems so naive. In both security policy and economics we’ve forgotten which direction traffic flowed over the Berlin Wall. Tell me you can watch this from summer 2019 – while Hongkongers sought to hang onto their grasp on freedom – without tearing up?
More than thousand HKers sing Les Miserables' 'Do you hear the people sing?' at HK international airport with their calls for free election and democracy. Here is the Ground Zero in the war against authoritarian rule. That's the reason for us never surrender. pic.twitter.com/1MkTp4BkVg
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) August 10, 2019
“Do You hear the people sing,” by the way, is banned in China.