HK protesters take to the streets over Cathay firings
HONG KONG Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong yesterday to denounce Cathay Pacific Airways for dismissing crew taking part in or supporting anti-government rallies that have swept the city for weeks.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) switched the protest venue, originally planned to be outside the airline's airport headquarters, Cathay City, to the central financial district after police refused permission.
The airport was forced to close two weeks ago after protesters thronged the arrivals hall for days, grounding about 1,000 flights and occasionally clashing with police.
Cathay was targeted for its sacking of 20 pilots and cabin crew and what staff have described as "white terror", a phrase used in Hong Kong and elsewhere to describe anonymous acts that create a climate of fear.
"Revoke termination, stop terrorising CX staff," proclaimed a black banner in English at the protest site where at least 2,000 gathered.
"Uphold our freedom of speech."
CX is airline code for Cathay.
The airline has been caught in the crosswinds between authorities in Beijing and protesters who have staged sometimes violent demonstrations since June.
China has denounced the protests and accused the United States and Britain of interfering in its affairs in Hong Kong.
It has sent a clear warning that forceful intervention is possible.
Ms Rebecca Sy, former head of a flight attendants' association, said she was fired without explanation after managers saw her Facebook account.
"We never faced any disciplinary action from the company before. How come now they just terminate me without any valid reason? By simply showing me those printouts of my own private Facebook account?"
China's aviation regulator demanded Cathay suspend staff from flying over its airspace if they were involved in, or supported, the demonstrations. At least 20 pilots and cabin crew have since been fired, the HKCTU said.
More demonstrations are planned across Hong Kong in coming weeks, including a general strike on Monday and a protest against what demonstrators say is sexual violence by police.
It has been dubbed the "#MeToo" rally and participants were being encouraged to write "#ProtestToo" on their arms with red lipstick.
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