The Washington Post - 22.08.2019

(Joyce) #1

A10 EZ SU THE WASHINGTON POST.THURSDAY, AUGUST 22 , 2019


The World


CHINA


U.K. consulate staffer’s


detention confirmed


China confirmed Wednesday
that it is holding an employee of
the British Consulate in Hong
Kong for allegedly violating the
law but did not give details about
his suspected crime.
Geng Shuang, a Foreign
Ministry spokesman, told
reporters that the official, Simon
Cheng, was being held under
administrative detention for
15 days by police in the mainland
city of Shenzhen because he had
violated China’s penal code on
public order management.
Geng did not say what part of
the code Cheng is alleged to have
breached, nor whether China
planned to release the 28-year-old
when the 15-day period expires
later this week.


The case has injected new
tension into already strained
relations between Beijing and
London, which the Chinese
government accuses of stoking
anti-government protests in
Hong Kong, a former British
colony.
Cheng disappeared Aug. 8 at an
immigration checkpoint trying to
return to Hong Kong after
attending a technology conference
in Shenzhen.
The Chinese statement came a
day after Cheng’s family went
public with an account of his
disappearance.
Cheng reportedly holds a
British National Overseas
passport, like many in Hong Kong,
but entered China on a Chinese
travel permit — meaning that he
would not be granted consular
access to British diplomats as a
British traveler would.
— Gerry Shih

SYRIA

Security forces besiege
rebels, Turkish post

Syrian government forces
marching from different
directions in southern parts of the
opposition-controlled province of
Idlib converged around sunset
Wednesday, after laying siege to
several rebel-held towns and
villages as well as a Turkish army
post, a war monitor and pro-
government activists said.
The rapid advance by the Syrian
army in the northwest province
marks a major blow for insurgents
in their last remaining stronghold.
A day earlier, the main
insurgent group in Idlib pulled out
of Khan Sheikhoun, a key rebel
town, as government forces slowly
advanced in the area.
Government forces have been
on the offensive in Idlib and in

northern parts of Hama province
since April 30, forcing nearly half a
million people to flee.
Since early Wednesday,
government forces had captured
Teraei Hill, east of Khan
Sheikhoun, and moved west until
they reached troops marching
from the other side, according to
the Syrian Observatory for
Human Rights and a pro-
government activist collective.
That meant rebel-held towns
and villages in Hama were now
besieged. A Turkish observation
post in the village of Morek also
was under siege. Turkey is a strong
backer of the Syrian opposition.
— Associated Press

Uganda, Rwanda agree to cease
hostilities: The leaders of
Rwanda and Uganda signed a
pact aimed at ending a long-
running rivalry that led to
conflict in the past and closed

their busiest border crossing for
six months. The two sides agreed
to respect each other’s
sovereignty, refrain from actions
that destabilize the other’s
territory and resume cross-
border activities. Rwanda has
repeatedly accused Uganda of
supporting anti-Kigali rebel
movements, a charge Uganda
denies. Tensions boiled over in
February, when Rwanda closed
their main border crossing.

Death toll in Kabul wedding
attack rises to 80: The death toll
in a suicide bombing at a Kabul
wedding claimed by the Islamic
State affiliate in Afghanistan has
risen to 80, an official said. The
initial toll in Saturday’s blast was
63, but 17 people later died of
their wounds, Interior Ministry
spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said.
Thirty people were in critical
condition. Meanwhile, the NATO

mission in the country reported
the deaths of two U.S. service
members. No details were
provided.

S. African court restricts display
of apartheid-era flag: South
Africa’s Equality Court has
restricted the display of the old
apartheid-era flag, ruling that its
gratuitous use amounts to hate
speech and racial discrimination.
Judge Phineas Mojapelo said that
the ruling was not a complete ban
and that use of the flag is
protected by law for artistic,
academic, journalistic or other
purposes deemed in the public
interest. The orange, white and
blue flag of the earlier white-
minority regime, which enforced
the system of racial discrimination
known as apartheid, was replaced
when the country achieved
majority-rule democracy in 1994.
— From news services

DIGEST

BY SHIBANI MAHTANI
AND TIMOTHY MCLAUGHLIN

hong kong — Seats upright,
belts on and tray tables up. As the
pilot announced “30 minutes to
landing,” the cabin crew on the
Cathay Dragon flight to Chengdu,
China, ran through their usual
checklist. Then they rushed to the
rear of the jet for a new precau-
tion: They locked their smart-
phones in sales carts, hiding the
devices between bottles of per-
fume and whiskey.
As the Chinese state zeroes in
on individuals suspected of sup-
porting ongoing protests against
Beijing’s influence in Hong Kong,
it has singled out Cathay Pacific,
the flagship Hong Kong airline
that is among the city’s biggest
employers and most globally rec-
ognized brands, subjecting its
staff to unprecedented scrutiny.
“We are panicked,” said one
flight attendant who has worked
for the airline for seven years.
Airline staff describe a climate
of fear and mistrust in their ranks,
as Chinese officials target flight
crews with thorough searches of
their luggage and personal devic-
es — including deleted files and
secure messaging apps — for any
signs of protest sympathies. Some
have had their phones’ content
downloaded by Chinese authori-
ties. Others have seen their private
information published in public
messaging groups, their anti-
government inclinations laid
bare.
The Washington Post inter-
viewed almost a dozen current
Cathay Pacific employees, who
spoke on the condition of anonym-
ity for fear of reprisal, and re-
viewed several internal staff mem-
os, social media groups and mes-
saging channels to compose a por-
trait of this time of turmoil at the
flag carrier.


Pressure from Beijing forced
out Cathay’s chief executive, Ru-
pert Hogg, along with one of his
deputies on Friday. Two pilots
have been fired, along with two
ground workers. This week a third
pilot, who made an in-flight an-
nouncement of support for Hong
Kong, left the company under un-
clear circumstances, according to
several employees.
“I feel so scared, like we have
lost our ability to voice our opin-
ions, our concerns and our hopes
without feeling the authority of
China,” said another flight atten-
dant, age 26.
The ongoing tumult at Cathay
has implications that stretch be-
yond this current wave of protest,
analysts say. It has sent the clear-
est signal yet that even global con-
glomerates based in the territory
can be compelled to bow to Bei-
jing’s will — leading to doubts
about whether the “one country,
two systems” arrangement that
allows Hong Kong a degree of
autonomy within China can con-
tinue to hold.
Cathay’s predicament “shows
that when China wants to put the
pressure on, it doesn’t really mat-
ter whether you are based in Hong
Kong or whether you are based in
Shanghai. This is all still China,”
said Duncan Innes-Ker, the re-
gional director for Asia at the
Economist Intelligence Unit.
Cathay Pacific did not respond
to detailed emailed questions. The
Chinese aviation authority did not
respond to multiple phone calls
and faxed questions.
In the early days of Hong
Kong’s leaderless summer of pro-
test, aviation workers, including
Cathay staff, were among those at
the forefront, understanding that
they had a disproportionate abili-
ty to get the attention of their
government.
They participated in a general

strike that forced the cancellation
of hundreds of flights, angled for a
three-day airport sit-in that would
further embarrass Hong Kong
Chief Executive Carrie Lam and
her backers in Beijing, wrote open
letters and set up secure messag-
ing groups to organize further ac-
tion.
Beijing’s impatience with their
involvement became clear on
Aug. 9 when China’s aviation regu-
lator issued a warning directed at
Cathay of a “major aviation safety
risk.” The airline had failed to bar
staff who took part in “violent
protests” from flying to the main-
land or through Chinese airspace,
the regulator said, adding that it
wanted the airline to make swift
changes.
Not complying wasn’t some-
thing Cathay could afford. Cathay
Pacific passenger and cargo
routes, and those flown by sister
brand Cathay Dragon and low-
cost arm Hong Kong Express, in-
clude more than two dozen main-
land cities. Passengers from the
mainland account for a significant
chunk of revenue. State-owned
Air China is Cathay’s second-

biggest shareholder, after the
Hong Kong- and London-based
Swire group.
The regulator’s warning also ex-
tended to any Cathay aircraft fly-
ing through the portion of Chinese
airspace that surrounds Hong
Kong, complicating travel to other
parts of the world.
Cathay staff interviewed by The
Post said the aviation authority’s
warning changed their environ-
ment significantly. Before it was
issued, they had not been chided
by management for protest partic-
ipation, even after the strike in
early August forced the grounding
of flights.
But at least six emails from
Cathay management warning
against illegal protest participa-
tion and urging compliance with
Chinese authorities have come
since Aug. 9, all of which were
obtained by The Post. The latest
was an internal memo sent by new
chief executive Augustus Tang on
Monday, stating that the company
would comply “100%” with all di-
rectives issued by Chinese avia-
tion regulators.
“The way every single one of us

acts, not only at work serving our
customers but also outside of
work — on social media and in
everyday life — impacts how we
are perceived as a company,” he
wrote.
The past two weeks have also
brought scrutiny — and what
some believe to be harassment —
of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Drag-
on crews flying to mainland cities.
Phones and bags are being
searched upon landing at cities
from Hangzhou to Xi’an. When
Cathay employees pushed back,
their company sent a note on
Aug. 17 saying authorities “have
the right to inspect personal elec-
tronic devices.”
Many are now trying to swap
routes to avoid flying to the main-
land altogether.
“We don’t think what the com-
pany is doing is supporting or
protecting us,” said the flight at-
tendant who has worked at Cathay
for seven years. “We think our
personal safety is in danger.”
What has scared employees
most is a Telegram channel with
almost 13,000 members that
claims it is collecting information
on protesters to pass along to Chi-
na’s Ministry of State Security, ac-
cording to the group’s description.
Set up in July, the group has since
changed its focus from protesters
in general to specifically tracking
airline and aviation staff, posting
photos of them in their uniforms
alongside social media posts in
which they express support for the
movement.
One post reads, “Stupid flight
attendant of Cathay,” followed by
her full name, which The Post has
withheld for her privacy, and pic-
tures of her with her young child.
“She has even sent her little kid to
the protest!”
Staff members are “very, very
panicked because of this” Tele-
gram channel, said one Cathay

ground worker. “I’m 42 years old
and I’m just panicked like a teen-
ager.”
Others believe their colleagues
who support the Hong Kong gov-
ernment and the police are moni-
toring them and reporting them to
company officials. It has made for
tense conversations in the galley
and before flights, when jovial
flight attendants usually chat with
each other to pass time.
“Even today on my flight, a very
long flight of 12 to 13 hours, no one
in-flight is talking about politics,”
said one flight attendant. If they
dare broach the subject, he added,
“we will ask beforehand, ‘Are you
supporting the protests?” just very
softly.”
Jeremy Tam, a pro-democracy
lawmaker, resigned from his posi-
tion at Cathay on Monday, a diffi-
cult decision he said he made to
shield the company from further
political attacks. Tam was a pilot at
the airline until 2016, when he
switched over to a consultancy
role.
“This is a company I love,” he
said in an interview. “And now
[authorities] are destroying the
company just like that, over free-
dom of speech and political
views?”
One 24-year-old flight atten-
dant pushed back on the notion
that as a Cathay employee he
should be barred from political
protest.
“When we are on the flight, we
won’t say, ‘Do you like chicken or
beef? And by the way, please sup-
port Hong Kong.’ We are profes-
sionals,” he said. “But we should
have the freedom to join any pro-
test, we should have our freedom
of speech when we land.”
shibani.mahtani@washpost.com

Gerry Shih and Lyric Li in Beijing and
Tiffany Liang in Hong Kong
contributed to this report.

Shaken up at


Hong Kong’s


top airline


Cathay Pacific workers feel pressure as China
seeks to quell city’s pro-democracy protests

VERNON YUEN/NURPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

A flight prepares to land at Hong Kong International Airport. Pressure from Beijing forced out Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg last week. Workers describe a climate of fear and mistrust at the airline.

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