Hong Kong unions urge Cathay Pacific to end 'white terror'

Cathay Pacific has become the biggest corporate casualty of the city's anti-government protests.
Cathay Pacific has become the biggest corporate casualty of the city's anti-government protests.PHOTO: AP

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) on Friday (Aug 23) called on Cathay Pacific to put an end to what it described as "white terror", following the dismissal of Ms Rebecca Sy, the head of Cathay Dragon's Airlines Flight Attendants' Association.

Hong Kong's flagship carrier has become the biggest corporate casualty of the city's anti-government protests.

Ms Sy's departure - after a 17-year career - which Cathay confirmed on Friday, follows the shock resignation of Cathay chief executive Rupert Hogg last week.

Ms Sy said at a press conference she was fired after managers saw and confirmed her Facebook account. Management did not provide a reason for her dismissal, she added.

HKCTU said 14 people have been fired so far over the protests, and called Ms Sy’s dismissal a "blatant act of suppression".

"All the employees are being frightened, not just cabin crews, but even the management," Ms Sy said. "My colleagues are all terrified because of its white terror."

White terror is a common expression to describe anonymous acts that create a climate of fear.

HKCTU said "white terror" loomed for the entire aviation industry, and demanded that Ms Sy be immediately reinstated.  

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shares of the airline were down more than 1 per cent, lagging a 0.6 per cent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Pilots and cabin crew at Hong Kong's flagship carrier have described a "white terror" of political denunciations, sackings and phone searches by Chinese aviation officials amid anti-government protests gripping the former British colony.

Cathay said ahead of the press conference on Friday that recent weeks had been extremely challenging for its employees.

"We thank all our dedicated staff who are committed to serving our customers in a professional manner," Cathay Pacific director of corporate affairs James Tong said.

The airline, 30 per cent owned by Air China, became embroiled in crosswinds between Beijing and pro-democracy groups in the Asian financial hub after some of its employees took part in the Hong Kong protests.