Trade union members in Hong Kong rallied Wednesday against the city’s flagship Cathay Pacific Airways for firing employees apparently because they had been linked to this summer’s pro-democracy protests.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions said that 20 employees have been dismissed or forced to resign, including pilots, cabin crew and managers. The confederation called the rally after Cathay Dragon, a Cathay group airline, fired cabin crew union head Rebecca Sy last week.
Sy, who says she was given no reason for her dismissal, said her firing sends a clear message to the people in Hong Kong that it’s not about whether you broke the law but simply whether you are doing what you have been told to do.
“Where is the freedom of speech or democracy?” she said. “Is Hong Kong really dying or is it already dead?”
Cathay has confirmed the dismissal of several employees in the past two weeks. It has given various reasons, such as a pilot who misused company information or another who is in legal proceedings, without mentioning the protests. One Cathay pilot was charged with rioting during a protest.
Chinese aviation authorities have pressured Cathay by banning staff from mainland flights if they support “illegal protests.” China’s central government has been sharply critical of the protests in the semi-autonomous territory.
Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg resigned earlier this month to take responsibility following recent events, the airline said.
The protests were sparked by a now-suspended extradition bill that many in Hong Kong saw as an encroachment by China on their rights and the separate legal system they have under the “one country, two systems” formula.
A banner at the rally read “Revoke termination” and “Stop terrorizing CX staff,” referring to the airline by its code. Under the slogans, the normally green Cathay logo was colored red with a golden star added to it, mimicking the Chinese flag.