Daily Management Review

Hong Kong Businesses Toe Beijing Line In Hong Kong Amidst Protests: Reports


Hong Kong Businesses Toe Beijing Line In Hong Kong Amidst Protests: Reports
After seeing what happened at Cathay Pacific Airways – ostensibly for not toeing the line of Beijing with respect to the protests ongoing in Hong Kong, reports suggest that many Hong Kong firms are choosing to get close to and follow the line being shown by Beijing. It has been months that protests have jolted Hong Kong demanding greater autonomy and less intervention in governance of the island city from mainland China.
At Cathay Pacific, political pressure from Beijing saw the exit of its CEO last week. And on Friday, the head of Cathay Dragon’s Airlines Flight Attendants’ Association said she was fired without any explanation following an examination of her Facebook account by the authorities of the airlines.
According to reports, there is palpable fear even to talk about the protests among employees in some of the other sectors in the Hong Kong – especially those in the financial sector. People are even refraining from discussing the protests with colleagues or in message groups because of fear that any support for the protests would be conveyed to the management, say the reports. 
“Now the best way is to keep silent, because people could back-stab you for no obvious benefits,” said one report quoting an employee claiming that he was reported to management by a colleague.
Recently, an employee of a Chinese state owned firm even bragged in a WeChat chat group that he had been reporting to his seniors about those employees who expressed support for the pro-democracy protestors or made pro-democracy comments, said a report. A report also suggested that calls from Chinese authorities had also been received by some after expressing support for the protesters and posting pro-protest comments on Facebook.
Residents of Hong Kong are calling the fear of denunciation as “the white terror” because they are very unhappy that the Chinese government is not fulfilling its promises made under the “one country, two systems” formula when it had taken over the city from the British in 1997. 
Rupert Hogg, the CEO of Cathay Pacific who resigned recently, is the most high profile casualty of this rising phenomena in the corporate world in Hong Kong. Reports have suggested that resisting Chinese government pressure to take action against those employees of the airline who were either involved or supported the demonstrations was ignored by him.
“The Cathay incident shows that when doing business in Hong Kong, politics and business are inseparable ... it’s quite an alarming message,” said a senior pro-Beijing politician according to a report.
The company has zero tolerance for any support or participation in illegal protests, said the new CEO of Cathay Pacific.
“The way every single one of us acts, not only at work serving our customers but also outside work – on social media and in everyday life – impacts how we are perceived as a company. We have made very clear that we have zero tolerance for illegal activities,” CEO Augustus Tang said.
Rebecca Sy, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions called on Cathay Pacific to reinstate the sacked head of the cabin crew association. About 30 per cent of the airlines is owned by Air China.