Cathay Pacific replaces chief executive as China ups pressure over protests

Carrier was rebuked by China for staff involvement in the anti-Beijing protests

Cathay has emerged as the most visible corporate victim of the demonstrations, which have rocked Hong Kong.

Cathay has emerged as the most visible corporate victim of the demonstrations, which have rocked Hong Kong.

 

Cathay Pacific replaced its chief executive on Friday after Beijing moved to pull Hong Kong businesses into line over anti-government protests that have plunged the territory into its worst political crisis in decades.

The decision to replace chief executive Rupert Hogg followed an accusation from Beijing’s aviation regulator that Cathay was putting flight safety at risk after several of the airline’s employees allegedly participated in the protest movement.

In an unprecedented development for a Hong Kong private sector company, the management change was first revealed by mainland Chinese state-run media rather than Cathay.

“Recent events have called into question Cathay Pacific’s commitment to flight safety and security and put our reputation and brand under pressure,” John Slosar, the company’s chairman, said in a statement. “We therefore think it is time to put a new management team in place who can reset confidence and lead the airline to new heights.”

Protesters

Hong Kong’s flag carrier has become the most high-profile business in the international financial hub to be caught between Beijing and customers in mainland China, and its Hong Kong staff and protesters in the territory.

The anti-government protests started as opposition to a proposed extradition law but have since expanded to include democratic reforms. This has drawn the ire of Beijing, which has massed paramilitary police on the border, sparking fears of military intervention.

According to a stock exchange filing from Cathay, Mr Hogg “confirmed that he has resigned to take responsibility as a leader of the company in view of recent events and that he is not aware of any disagreement with the board”.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019