Hong Kong (RAE - China) - Union leader dismissed for supporting the pro-democracy movement

On 21 August, the Cathay Dragon airline dismissed the chairperson of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants Association, Ms Rebecca Sy. No official reason was given for her dismissal, but it came immediately after she was asked to confirm that a screen shot of a social media post expressing support for the pro-democracy movement was hers.

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), to which the Flight Attendants Association is affiliated, believed the airline industry unions were a target for reprisals because they had been the most active in the pro-democracy strike on 5 August. Rebecca Sy herself was a very active union member and was credited with pushing through changes that ended Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon’s “skirts only” rule for women, giving female flight attendants the option of wearing trousers. The airline declined to give a reason for Ms Sy’s dismissal, but claimed it was not related to her union activities.

After the 5 August general strike, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) put pressure on Cathay Pacific over its staff’s involvement in the pro-democracy movement and issued a broadly scoped directive to Cathay Pacific to prohibit the staff of Cathay Pacific taking part in “unlawful assemblies” and “radical actions” in the anti-extradition bill protests from flying over mainland Chinese air space.

The company bowed to that pressure and warned of terminations for supporting or joining the protests. The number of staff dismissed because of their support for the movement soon reached double figures and included four pilots and two ground staff.

The CAAC ban has had a ripple effect to limit the right to freedom of assembly and expression of employees in the aviation sector. By the end of November 2019, 37 employees of Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong Airlines and the Hong Kong Airport Authority had been fired for association with the protests.

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