Cathay Pacific CEO quits after Beijing blasts carrier

Mr Rupert Hogg's resignation came after Beijing criticised Cathay for not doing enough to rein in staff who backed protesters. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Rupert Hogg's resignation came after Beijing criticised Cathay for not doing enough to rein in staff who backed protesters. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Cathay Pacific has announced the shock resignation of its CEO Rupert Hogg, compounding a torrid week for the Hong Kong carrier after it was excoriated by Beijing because some staff supported pro-democracy protests.

The 72-year-old airline has been left reeling after it became ensnared in the hardening of rhe-toric from the communist mainland over 10 weeks of anti-government protests that have plunged Hong Kong into crisis.

Over the last two weeks, the airline emerged as a target on the mainland after some of its 27,000-strong workforce took part in, or voiced support for, the protests.

During a general strike earlier in the month, some staff joined in, including the union representing Cathay Pacific's flight attendants.

China's reaction was swift. State media began writing a series of condemnations of Cathay, accusing it of not doing enough to rein in its workers.

Then the country's aviation regulator demanded that the airline prevent such staff from working on flights to the mainland or those routed through Chinese airspace.

Cathay moved into damage limitation mode, firing four staff members associated with the protests - including two pilots - agreeing to comply with the new regulations and releasing a series of statements supporting Hong Kong's embattled government.

But it appears these moves were not enough to save its chief, Mr Hogg, who has been credited with helping to turn the airline profitable after two years of losses.

In a statement posted on the Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday, Cathay said Mr Hogg had resigned "to take responsibility as a leader of the company in view of recent events". "The board of directors believes that it is the right time for new leadership to take Cathay Pacific forward," it said.

 
 

Another senior Cathay executive, chief customer and commercial officer Paul Loo, also announced his departure.

"These have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company," Mr Hogg said in a Cathay statement.

Mr Hogg has been replaced by Mr Augustus Tang, a veteran of the Swire Group conglomerate, Cathay's main shareholder.

Mr Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics in Malaysia, said Cathay's censure was a warning to other companies that Beijing will not tolerate dissent.

"Cathay is only the start," he told Bloomberg News. "China is sending a message to other corporations in Hong Kong that the same thing can happen to them."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2019, with the headline 'Cathay Pacific CEO quits after Beijing blasts carrier'. Print Edition | Subscribe