On July 1. 1997 the United Kingdom hands sovereignty over Hong Kong over to China. The agreement includes that there will be 1 country, 2 systems for 50 years. This means that China and Hong Kong continue to have their own governmental systems, legal, economic and financial affairs, including trade relations with foreign countries until 2047.
Difference between Hong Kong and China
Citizens of Hong Kong enjoy a high standard of living and a lot of freedom relative to Chinese nationals. However, in February 2019 the Hong Kong government proposes an extradition bill. It enables the government to make arrangements for mutual legal assistance between Hong Kong and any other place including mainland China.
In practice it means that Hong Kong can extradite its citizens to China. Many Hong Kong citizens consider this a breach of the 1 country, 2 systems accord. Therefore, they demonstrate against the extradition bill.
Suddenly, China sucks Cathay Pacific, a Hong Kong based airline, into this conflict. It orders the carrier to suspend any staff who support pro-democracy protests in the territory. So China reserves the right to tell a Hong Kong airline what its staff policy should be.
But this is hard to reconcile with the 1 country, 2 systems accord. It clearly illustrates that democracy is a swear word in Beijing. Nobody outside the Chinese government ever thought that China would aim at determining a Hong Kong company’s personnel management. This is not promising at all for the rest of the years until 2047.
Warning by China
China warns pro-democracy protesters not to underestimate the “central government’s firm resolve.” But Cathay’s chairman John Slosar is not impressed witness his response: ”We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling our staff what they have to think about something.” Although this is normal in a democracy, it is inconceivable to autocratic rulers.
China's state-run press is also trying to put pressure on Cathay through a #BoycottCathayPacific hashtag. It is already trending on Chinese social media. In addition, the Chinese military is adding to the pressure by releasing a video showing an anti-riot exercise.
Fake boarding passes
But the Hong Kong demonstrators are not impressed either. They are posting fake boarding passes with the text "HK to freedom." Those passes appear on social media to promote the pro-democracy protests.
Despite John Slosar's statement above, Cathay Pacific quickly complied with China's demand. It has suspended a pilot arrested during anti-government protests. And it has fired 2 airport employees for misconduct. The carrier also said it would not have "overly radical" staff onboard flights to the China.
China claims the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are illegal. For those who didn't yet know it: China has made it very clear that it no longer tolerates freedom of speech anymore in Hong Kong. President Xi Jinping rules with an iron fist and has muzzled the people of Hong Kong. From now on it is 1 country, 1 system.
But passengers still have a choice. They can fly Cathay Pacific whose staff has been made silent. Or they can fly a foreign airline whose staff enjoy freedom of speech.
Tags: Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong, pro-democracy protests, anti-riot drill