Hong Kong police banned a rally at the headquarters of Cathay Pacific Airways on Wednesday citing a court injunction imposed at the airport to restrict demonstrations.

CEO Rupert Hogg resigned from his post two weeks ago amid criticism from China over the airline’s response to the city’s anti-extradition law protests. Meanwhile, Rebecca Sy – chair of the flight attendant union for Cathay’s subsidiary Cathay Dragon – was also fired this month, along with two pilots.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

In response, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) proposed a rally on Wednesday outside Cathay City near the airport. But the rally was officially banned by the police on Monday, citing a pre-existing court order.

Lee Cheuk-yan, secretary-general of the HKCTU, said the police were helping Cathay Pacific, which did not wish to face its employees.

“The HKCTU strongly condemns the police for stripping the public of their right to assembly,” he said, adding that the HKCTU will file an appeal.

The company has warned that staff could be dismissed if they “support or participate in illegal protests,” after China’s aviation regulator required Cathay to submit staff lists on flights to the mainland or travelling through its airspace.

The embattled airline has since published four press releases voicing its support for the government and the Basic Law, adding that it would have a “zero tolerance” approach to illegal protests. If a fifth statement on Monday night it said: “We have reminded our people that the event is illegal and that the injunction granted to the Airport Authority of Hong Kong also covers Cathay City, which is the operational hub for our global operations and as such includes facilities that are absolutely critical to our flight operations.”

“We have also reiterated to our employees that there is a zero-tolerance approach to any support for or participation in illegal protests, violent activities or overly radical behaviour,” it added.

Last week, a Hong Kong court granted an extension to an injunction to clear protesters at the airport – except for those in designated areas – until further notice. The order covers the whole artificial island on which the airport sits.

Protesters have nevertheless called for activists to congest traffic around the aviation hub this Sunday.

The Airport Authority has said that blocking roads connecting to Chek Lap Kok may constitute acts of unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of the airport, under the injunction.

More protests this week

Protests against the ill-fated extradition bill – which would have allowed case-by-case fugitive transfers to China – show little sign of stopping. 

On Wednesday, the Hong Kong Women’s Coalition on Equal Opportunities will host a rally at 8pm at Chater Garden in Central. The coalition will demand answers from the police over alleged instances of sexual assault.

Photo: LIHKG.

It came after a female protester underwent a full strip search in police custody, which her lawyer said was unreasonable and humiliating.

Meanwhile, the Civil Human Rights Front – an alliance of some 50 NGOs – has applied for a large-scale march again on August 31. If approved, it will begin at 3pm in Chater Garden and end at the China Liaison Office in Sai Wan.

Photo: LIHKG.

The day of the march will be the fifth anniversary of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s decision to set a restrictive framework over Hong Kong’s political reform. The White Paper sparked the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

On September 2, student unions of ten universities will start an 11-day class boycott action beginning with a rally at the mall of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Since June, large-scale peaceful protests have morphed into – sometimes violent – displays of dissent over Beijing’s encroachment, democracy, alleged police brutality, surveillance and other community grievances. Demonstrators continue to demand a complete withdrawal of the bill, a fully independent probe into police behaviour, amnesty for those arrested, universal suffrage and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.