Hong Kong is going through a bit of a rough patch right now (to put it lightly), and China is largely displeased with the way Hong Kongers are rioting against them. In my last post where I described how this weekend’s airport protests would affect those flying in and out of the airport, I talked about how I was in no way a supporter of any violence that was going on, though at the same time agreed that Hong Kong was facing high stakes.
I know that protesters overestimate their ability to overturn the government and lead Hong Kong autonomously, and they think they’re starting some sort of cutting-edge revolution. What they fail to realise is that China has the ability to wipe the entirety of Hong Kong out in a second. As of now, Hong Kong phones are already getting cleared when getting into China, to stop any footage of the protests from getting into the country.
Well, the first of China’s retaliations have hit, and it targets Cathay Pacific. From now on, crewmembers involved in protests will no longer be allowed to operate Cathay Pacific flights overflying Chinese airspace.
Now, how does this work?
Requirements of the CAAC
Effective today, China is requiring Cathay Pacific to submit full crew personal details for all flights that overfly Chinese airspace. Only CAAC-approved crews will be allowed to overfly China, and failure to do so will result in Cathay Pacific not being allowed to use Chinese airspace altogether.
CAAC is only approving crews that are not known to be involved in illegal protests. The statement says:
“The CAAC has issued a severe aviation risk warning after numerous recent incidents exposed safety risks by Hong Kong Cathay Pacific.
Recently, a Cathay Pacific pilot involved in violent activities was charged with rioting but the person was not suspended from flight duties. There was also leakage of passenger information with malicious intent. These have had an adverse social impact and increased the possibility of aviation risks spreading from Hong Kong to the mainland.”
Cathay Pacific has stated that they are “treating [the statement] seriously” and “the safety of our passengers is always the top priority of Cathay Pacific”.
How is China doing it?
During all of the protests that went awry, everyone who left the scene had to register with the Hong Kong police. I believe the details of the people who registered were then sent to Chinese officials to “process”. Obviously this didn’t sit well with the protesters, since they’d seen the police as the public enemy, and sure weren’t down to give the police their information.
My guess is that China is more or less performing a scare stunt here – they’re jacking up the stakes to discourage protesters from protesting against China, but they’ll probably just briefly scan through the lists of registered “illegal” protesters. This is a way for them to exert control on a key part of Hong Kong’s economy without actually costing themselves too much – all of Hong Kong’s northbound routes pass through China, so that’s a lot of lists that have to be approved!
Why are they doing it?
Here’s the thing. If China actually meant what they said and they just wanted illegal protesters out, then I actually support that. During the protests, many took to the streets to vandalise and assault police, especially during the protests that authorities never approved. I agree that those people should have consequences, and China’s banishment of these people working flights above their airspace is somewhat justified.
After all, China’s directly retaliating against the Cathay Pacific employees that leaked personal information of certain pro-establishment government officials so they could be harassed by protesters during the airport protests.
The problem is that Chinese authorities have long known for making things a “slippery slope”. What about those living in the area that got registered by police? What about the peaceful protests that occurred prior to the violent, out-of-hand July protests? Are you going to silence them for speaking out against you?
The Chinese version of the CAAC memo translates to banning “anyone known to participate in and/or support the protests”. Are they going to do social media checks on all of the names submitted, just to make sure they’ve been supporting China the entire way? If that’s the case, then Cathay Pacific’s bound to lose a lot of business, since few are really on China’s side at this point.
If I predicted correctly and merely those registered during the violent attacks are banned from flying, then I’m in support of this movement. Those currently rioting out in the Hong Kong open overestimate their power and their ability to overturn the government, as well as LegCo – it isn’t going to happen. In this case I’d consider it a rather soft exertion of power on China’s part, and I’d be grateful that they didn’t do something worse. (We threw China’s flag into the sea. Twice. And we also spray painted one of Hong Kong’s most iconic mementos with “Heavens destroy China”. What did you expect?)
Unfortunately China has a track record of abusing the power that they have, so we’ll see if they end up prosecuting the protesters that were peacefully speaking out against them as well. Let’s hope for the best on this one…