Following a shocking series of events, Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg stepped down on Friday amid serious criticism from the Chinese government over its employees’ participation in the city’s anti-government protests.
The airline, 30% owned by Air China, became embroiled in crosswinds between Beijing and pro-democracy groups in the Asian financial hub after some of its employees took part in the Hong Kong protests.
In a filing with Hong Kong’s stock exchange late Friday, Cathay said its chief executive officer, Rupert Hogg, was resigning effective Monday “to take responsibility as a leader of the company in view of recent events.”
Mr. Hogg acknowledged, in an email to employees, that Cathay’s reputation and the brand had come under immense pressure, “particularly in the all-important market of mainland China.”
The Cathay Pacific CEO was ousted a week after the Chinese government demanded that Cathay workers who participated in the demonstrations be barred from flying to mainland China, following which Augustus Tang has been named as the airlines’ new CEO.
The resignation can be viewed as a sign that China is willing to put pressure on Hong Kong’s highest-profile businesses to show how serious it is about quelling the unrest, which it has described as “close to terrorism.”
The tensions began after demonstrators protested a proposed law that would have allowed the local government to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China, where the Communist Party controls the courts. The movement has broadened into demands that local leaders resign and that residents be allowed to vote in free elections.
The recent series of events had also put a red mark on Cathay’s commitment to flight safety and security and put its reputation and brand under pressure.
John Slosar, Chairman of Cathay Pacific said in a statement, “This is regrettable as we have always made safety and security our highest priority. We, therefore, think it is time to put a new management team in place who can reset confidence and lead the airline to new heights.”