It is now the tenth week that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China has been gripped in severe disorder, as the protest crowds that initially gathered to rail against a heavily pro-Beijing extradition bill have remained to call for greater freedoms in the territory. The Hong Kong government, while having suspended legislation on the bill and promised to take residents’ sentiments into consideration, have also been obliged to respond with force to the protests, as they have turned violent and disruptive with invasion of government buildings and operational interference in transportation infrastructure. China itself has turned up its political pressure by hitting Hong Kong’s signature flag carrier airline.
ABS-CBN News reports that Beijing has recently leveled some stringent regulations on Cathay Pacific Airways that would single out any of the airline’s employees carrying sympathetic opinions to the Hong Kong protests. The Communist government has instructed CPA’s leadership to shut out any staffers that are proven to have either participated or voiced support for the protesters, from being on the crew of any flight of the airline that goes to mainland China. This demand, issued Friday, August 9, also instructed Cathay Pacific to submit information on all air crew staff plying the HK-China routes, for Beijing’s own approval screening.
Such an act of overreach by the Communist leadership of mainland China was expected following some bargaining from the Hong Kong government not to deploy the military into the SAR. This is a grave concern for the Hong Kong Cabin Crew Federation union of HK-based airline workers. According to their spokesperson Carol Ng, this move enables Beijing to influence the economic fortunes of not just local businesses but multinational conglomerates depending on access to the Chinese market, as the potential blanket ban on protest sympathizers threaten to further destabilize the freefalling economy of Hong Kong.
This is not a wanted development for the former British colony that has already been laid low by the pro-democracy protests since late June. The HK stock market is dropping while tourists are scared away by the violent clashes between angry residents and authorities. And while Cathay Pacific is acquiescing to the Beijing demand for now, some of its employees are increasingly resentful of the iron hand leveled upon them.
Currently the protests in general are calling out Beijing on stifling the democratic safeguards that were supposed to ensure the “One Country, Two Systems” governmental and economic status of Hong Kong from 1997 to 2047. China on the other hand lays the fault of the “OCTS” on the protesters themselves, while blaming “foreign agitators” for encouraging HK residents to believe in the falsehood that the territory is independent from China.
Image courtesy of CNN International