The Wall Street Journal - 13.08.2019

(Ann) #1

A8| Tuesday, August 13, 2019 *** THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.**

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific
Airways Ltd. threatened to fire
staff involved in unauthorized
protests against the city’s gov-
ernment, as the airline raced
to placate Beijing and avert a
boycott from its mainland Chi-
nese customers.

The move underlined the
delicate position in which
Hong Kong’s deepening politi-
cal crisis has placed the city’s
flag carrier, which must also
avoid alienating its local cus-
tomer base and much of its
own workforce, some of whom
say they fear a purge of staff
implicated for their involve-
ment in the protests.
The threat came as Hong
Kong’s airport authority can-
celed more than 100 flights
Monday afternoon after thou-
sands of demonstrators
thronged the main terminal to

By Trefor Moss in
Shanghai and Joanne
Chiu in Hong Kong

world’s tech-supply chain.
Japan and South Korea play
central roles in the manufac-
turing of electronics products
from Apple Inc.’s iPhones to Inc.’s data serv-
The two countries are also
essential to Washington’s ef-
forts to persuade North Korea
to relinquish its nuclear arse-
Sung Yun-mo, South Korea’s
Minister of Trade, Industry
and Energy, said Seoul is open
to negotiating with the Japa-
nese government on the
change at any time during the
review period.
Japan has previously de-
fended its trade restrictions
against South Korea for na-
tional security reasons. But
other Japanese officials have
cited a breach in trust stem-
ming from a South Korean
court’s decision last year on
World War II reparations.

protest police for their han-
dling of this summer’s long-
running protests.
Shares of Cathay Pacific fell
4.9% Monday, the worst drop
in three years. The Hong
Kong-listed stock has now lost
a fifth of its value since mid-
July and closed at its lowest
level in more than a decade.
In an email sent to staff
Monday after another week-
end of violent protests across
the city—most of which
weren’t authorized by the po-
lice—Rupert Hogg, Cathay Pa-
cific’s chief executive, said the
carrier had “a zero tolerance
approach to illegal activities.”
He added that “there will be
disciplinary consequences for
employees who support or
participate in illegal protests.
These consequences may in-
clude termination of employ-
While praising the conduct
of most of the carrier’s staff,
Mr. Hogg warned employees to
steer clear of the dayslong,

unauthorized protest at the
trast to the approach the air-
line had taken just a week ear-
lier, when Chairman John
Slosar said Cathay Pacific re-
spected the right of its em-
ployees to take part in the
protests. “We certainly

wouldn’t dream of telling
them what they have to think
about something,” Mr. Slosar
said at the time.
Those comments appeared
to rile China’s aviation author-
ity, which Friday ordered Ca-
thay Pacific to remove all em-
ployees involved in the Hong

Since then, violence be-
tween thousands of radical
protesters and police has
spread across the city, spark-
ing battles in many districts.
Hundreds of protesters have
been arrested, and more than
1,800 rounds of tear gas have
been used, along with scores
of rubber bullets and beanbag
rounds, police have said.
In recent public appearances,
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam,
has said the government can’t
accede to the protesters’ de-
mands. Those include an inde-
pendent inquiry into police
handling of the protests.
The city suspended airport
operations out of concern for
aviation safety as well as the
personal safety of passengers,
Hong Kong’s Secretary for
Transport and Housing Frank
Chan Fan said.
A large number of protest-

ers started gathering in the
early afternoon Monday,
quickly filling both arrival and
departure halls, where they
later marched in circles and
chanted slogans. Hundreds
used trolleys to block en-
trances to the departure hall,
agitating passengers who had
to make a detour. “Blame the
government,” read a cardboard
sign displayed by protesters.
Other impromptu protests
were held across the city Mon-
day. Among them, workers at
a public hospital staged a two-
hour strike.
More than 200 doctors,
nurses, paramedics and phar-
macists gathered at the hospi-
tal, some with bandages over
one eye, as a show of solidar-
ity with the injured protester.
They held signs that said, “Po-
lice attempt to murder Hong
Kong citizens.”

said at a news briefing on Mon-
day, according to Chinese state
media. “The first signs of ter-
rorism are starting to appear.”
Mr. Yang said such violence
must be severely punished,
“without leniency, without
“The terrorism claim is to-
tally out of proportion,” said
Ho-Fung Hung, a political
economy professor at Johns
Hopkins University. Mr. Hung
pointed to other times China
cited terrorism as justification
for draconian measures to
crack down on people, such as
the treatment of Uighur Mus-
lims in China’s Xinjiang region.
China could be using the char-
acterization to justify tougher
methods to contain the pro-
tests in Hong Kong, he said.
At a news conference Mon-
day, a police spokesman also
played down the idea of ter-

rorism, saying the situation
wasn’t at that stage.
President Trump’s national
security adviser, John Bolton,
who was in London for talks
with the new U.K. government,
said he had discussed the es-
calating unrest in Hong Kong
with British Foreign Secretary
Dominic Raab “as part of a
general discussion about
Mr. Bolton urged China to
adhere to its commitment to
maintain the former British
colony’s high degree of auton-
omy and political freedoms.
“The people of Hong Kong
feel very strongly about the
one country, two systems ap-
proach that was agreed to in
the joint Sino-British declara-
tion and the demonstrations
have been a reflection of that,”
Mr. Bolton said.
The unrest in Hong Kong

shows no signs of ending as
the city remains gripped in its
worst political crisis in de-
cades. The protest movement
that began over a bill that
would allow suspects to be
tried in mainland China has
snowballed into a wider move-
ment demanding more ac-
countability from police and
for the government to respond
to their issues.
In the past two months, the
momentum of the protest has
in part been sustained by pub-
lic reaction to police use of
force against street demon-
strators. An estimated two
million people took to city
streets on June 16, the second
such burst of mass protest af-
ter a protester died in a fall
while unfurling a banner and
police earlier that week first
used tear gas and rubber bul-
lets to clear a rally.

Among major carriers Mon-
day, American Airlines Inc.
canceled its flight to Hong
Kong from Los Angeles but
said its flight from Dallas took
off as scheduled, while United
Airlines Holdings Inc. can-
celed a flight from Guam but
ran flights from Chicago and
New York as scheduled.
In Europe, British Airways,
owned by International Con-

solidated Airlines Group SA,
said its two flights from Hong
Kong to London were affected
by disruption. Germany’s Luf-
thansa AG canceled two flights
to Hong Kong scheduled to de-
part from Munich and Frank-
furt, as well as two flights to
Germany from Hong Kong.
“We can’t check passengers
into their flights in Hong
Kong,” a Lufthansa spokesman

Flight cancellations ex-
tended into Tuesday morning,
threatening further disruption
at an airport that serves as a
gateway to Asia for many
business and leisure travelers.
Flightradar24 said 241
flights scheduled for Tuesday
were already canceled. While
the crowd of protesters at the
airport had thinned to a few
dozen Tuesday morning, they
said more would arrive in the
One passenger caught up in
Monday’s chaos was Richard
Berta, who runs strategic part-
nerships in Asia for Alphabet
Inc.’s Google. His plane was di-
verted to Guangzhou, China,
shortly before it was expected
to land in Hong Kong. Mr.
Berta said passengers weren’t
allowed to leave the aircraft,
which set off back to Ulaan-
baatar, Mongolia, 2½ hours
later. His flight to Hong Kong
was rescheduled for Wednes-
day but he hasn’t heard when
he would fly back to Singa-
pore, where he lives and is ex-
pected to be at work Tuesday.
“I’ve got to reschedule a
ton of meetings,” he said.

said. “We are monitoring the
situation and will decide day
by day about flights.”
Qatar Airways said it redi-
rected a flight destined for
Hong Kong back to Doha
shortly after the airport was
shut. The state-owned airline
canceled both its flights from
the Qatari capital to Hong
Kong and warned that disrup-
tion could last into Tuesday.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier,
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.,
canceled dozens of flights to
and from the city and said it
wouldn’t operate some flights
on Tuesday either.
Cathay Pacific is the airline
most affected by the stoppage
as the city is its main hub,
said Helane Becker, an avia-
tion analyst with investment
bank Cowen & Co. The impact
could go beyond the disrup-
tions themselves, she added, if
tourists decide against visiting
Hong Kong and choose to
travel elsewhere, damping fu-
ture air travel to the city.
“If I’m going to spend the
thousands of dollars it costs to
fly there, maybe it makes
more sense for me to go else-

where,” Ms. Becker said.
The disruption Monday
isn’t the first time demonstra-
tions in Hong Kong—one of
the world’s leading financial
centers—have affected the air-
port, which last year handled
more than 400,000 flights and
75 million passengers as well
as five million tons of cargo.
More than 200 flights were
canceled a week earlier be-
cause of a citywide strike.
While many stranded pas-
sengers expressed sympathy
with the protesters, some also
said they were frustrated.
“I had sympathy with the
protesters, but I’m carrying
my mother’s ashes, and going
back to London for a funeral,”
said a British traveler whose
Qatar Airways flight had been
canceled. “This is affecting or-
dinary people now.”
Still, not all of those af-
fected had negative views of
the protesters.
“I’m all about it. I’m an
American, they’re fighting for
their freedom too,” said Mark
Vahala, a U.S. citizen on a
business trip, whose flight to
Singapore had been canceled.

International airlines set
about trying to reschedule
flights for throngs of passen-
gers caught in the political
turmoil engulfing Hong Kong
after authorities shut down
the city’s airport, one of the
world’s busiest hubs.

Plane-tracking company
Flightradar24 AB said a total
of 187 flights in Hong Kong
were canceled Monday.
The disruption came after
thousands of people de-
scended on the arrival and de-
parture halls to protest the
police’s handling of long-run-
ning demonstrations in the
city. Check-in services were
closed midafternoon, with
many flights set to arrive can-
celed or diverted.

By Austen Hufford ,
William Boston
and Mike Bird

Disruption in Hong Kong Snarls Airlines

Carriers and travelers

confront uncertainty

at crucial hub as

flights are canceled

Protesters greeting the crew from one of the last flights to
arrive at Hong Kong’s international airport on Monday afternoon.


morning uncertain if their
flights would leave on time,
though some flights had begun
departing. The city’s main car-
rier, Cathay Pacific Airways
Ltd., still listed dozens of can-
celed flights through Tuesday.
The size of the crowd over-
whelmed the airport, one of
the world’s busiest, handling
more than 400,000 flights and
75 million passengers last
year. It underscored protest-
ers’ continued ability to dis-
rupt the city and ratchet up
pressure on authorities, who
have warned the unrest may
tip the economy into recession
and damage business confi-
dence in the international fi-
nance and trading hub.
The protest, while disrup-
tive, was peaceful—a contrast
to battles Sunday night across
the city in which police sta-
tions were besieged, dozens of
protesters were arrested fol-
lowing charges by police
wielding batons and one
woman sustained a serious eye
injury after she was shot with
a projectile.
Many said they came to the
airport to draw international
attention to their cause, and
would stick to the peaceful
protest method long practiced
in the city before this summer
of discontent, during which a
hard core of demonstrators
has begun to embrace more
radical methods.
Chinese officials focused on
what they called “deranged
acts” by those protesters, in-
cluding throwing gasoline
bombs, saying they marked
the emergence of terrorism in
the partly autonomous Chi-
nese city.
“Radical Hong Kong protest-
ers have repeatedly used ex-
tremely dangerous tools to at-
tack police officers,” Yang
Guang, a spokesman for the
Chinese government’s Hong
Kong and Macau Affairs Office



Shut Down


Protesters against what they see as Beijing’s efforts to weaken the legalrights of Hong Kong citizens occupied the city’s international airport on Monday afternoon.


Kong protests from flights to
the mainland. Meanwhile,
thousands of Chinese people
took to social media to criti-
cize the airline over its stance,
saying they would no longer
fly Cathay.
The airline responded Sat-
urday by announcing that it
had fired two members of its
ground staff. In another email
to sent to staff Saturday, Mr.
Hogg said the airline “must
and will comply” with new or-
ders from the Chinese authori-
ties relating to the protests.
These included a requirement
that employees involved in
protests be removed from
mainland flight crews.
Chinese state-owned Air
China Ltd. has a 30% stake in
Cathay, which is controlled by
the U.K.’s Swire Group .The
carrier is a mainstay of the
Hong Kong economy, with
more than 26,500 staff mem-
bers based in the city.
—Steven Russolillo
contributed to this article.

Cathay Pacific Warns Staff on Protests

SEOUL—South Korea
dropped Japan as a favored
trading partner, further esca-
lating tensions between the
two U.S. allies.
Seoul said Monday it would
remove Japan from a list of
countries that qualify for ac-
celerated imports of its prod-
ucts, a move South Korea had
signaled earlier this month
when Tokyo enacted a similar
measure against it.
Starting in early September,
importing certain South Ko-
rean goods will require a pro-
cess taking up to 15 days ver-
sus the current window of five
days, Seoul’s Ministry of Trade,
Industry and Energy said.
Japan’s Ministry of Econ-
omy, Trade and Industry
couldn’t be reached to com-
ment. It was a holiday in Japan.
The trade spat threatens to
create delays all along the


Seoul Curbs Exports

To Japan in Dispute

Tough stance stands
in contrast to
approach airline
took a week earlier.


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