Cathay urged to end 'white terror' as it sacks another staffer

August 23, 2019 17:59
Rebecca Sy speaks at a news conference on Friday after her abrupt dismissal by Cathay Pacific Airways over social media posts believed to be linked to Hong Kong's ongoing anti-government protests. Photo: Bloomberg

Trade unions in Hong Kong have called on Cathay Pacific Airways to put an end to “all forms of white terror”, as news surfaced that the carrier has sacked another employee in suspected retaliation for involvement in, or support of, Hong Kong's extradition bill-related protests. 

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) called a news conference on Friday after the sudden dismissal of Rebecca Sy, the head of Cathay Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants’ Association, Reuters reports. 

Sy, who has been with Cathay for 17 years, said she was fired, without explanation, after managers saw and confirmed her Facebook account where she had posted some messages.

HKCTU said 14 people have been fired so far in connection with Hong Kong's ongoing protests, which have angered China, and called Sy’s dismissal a “blatant act of suppression”.

“All the employees are being frightened, not just cabin crews, but even the management,” Sy said at the same press conference. “My colleagues are all terrified because of its white terror.”

White terror is a common expression to describe anonymous acts that create a climate of fear.

Cathay Pacific said in a statement that Sy’s departure had nothing to do with her union leadership role or her union activities.

“Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, when deciding whether to terminate an employee, we take into account all relevant circumstances including applicable regulatory requirements and the employee’s ability to perform his/her job,” the company said.

Cathay has been caught in the crosswinds between authorities in Beijing and anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

The carrier has become the biggest corporate casualty of the protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, the Hong Kong demonstrations, Reuters noted.

Sy’s departure follows last week’s shock resignation of Cathay's CEO Rupert Hogg, the highest-profile corporate casualty of the unrest.

Cathay pilots and cabin crew have described a campaign of political denunciations, sackings and telephone searches by Chinese aviation officials.

Recent weeks have been extremely challenging for employees of the Hong Kong flag carrier, which is 30 percent owned by Air China.

“White terror” looms for the entire aviation industry, HKCTU said, while demanding that Sy be immediately reinstated.

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