Hong Kong and China are currently embroiled in a rising crisis regarding the sovereignty and “one country, two systems” approach that Hong Kong residents currently enjoy. China wants to be able to extradite people from Hong Kong, but with China’s questionable record on human rights and power abuse, this is something that citizens in Hong Kong are extremely opposed to.

Thus far, the conflict has mostly involved peaceful protests to squash this extradition proposal, but as the uprising gains swelling momentum, China is looking to assert its influence in a scary and rather alarming way, by banning any member of a flight crew it sees as an adversary.

China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) has issued sweeping new demands to Hong Kong in light of recent events, with potentially far reaching consequences. The demands include flight crew manifests delivered in advance for approval, as well as bans for any Hong Kong crew members the People’s Republic of China deems to have been in support of the movements in Hong Kong.

The move comes after Cathay Pacific staff were found to be engaging in violent elements of the Hong Kong protests, an issue which has alarmed authorities in Beijing, as well as Cathay passengers in the city who fear that the protests now border on the extreme and apparently worry about the mindset of these crew members operating flights.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t restricted to participating in, but also includes the vague term of “supporting”, which creates a terrifying opening for prosecution in China without merit. Even worse, it includes flights “over” mainland China, meaning even pilots headed to the USA could be caught up. What’s next, passenger manifests for every flight that flies over mainland China?

It’s widely assumed that China is using facial recognition software to identify protestors, which is why many have chosen to begin wearing goggles, masks and other countermeasures. Per a source briefed on the matter, the following demands have been issued to Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong authorities, including…

1. effective 10AUG, any personnel who supports/participated in illegal protest/rally, violent attack and/or any unruly conduct will be prohibited from working on flights to/from mainland China.

2. effective 11AUG, CX should submit crew manifest for approval for all flights to/from mainland China and overfly China airspace. Flights cannot enter mainland China airspace unless crew list is approved.

3. CX should submit plans for reinforcing internal management & control, improve flight safety and security on or before 15AUG to CAAC.

Make no bones about it, this is China asserting its crippling force over Hong Kong, by aiming to limit the viability of its main transportation source, Hong Kong based airline Cathay Pacific. If Cathay can no longer fly over China, or is seen to be putting its own crew members at risk of facing persecution in China without due process, it could cripple links to the Western world.

Threatening to bar flights from entering Chinese airspace, just because a pilot who does not live in nor fly to China may have “liked” something on social media is the beginning of a very slippery slope, and one which could in theory happen to any country. What’s next, no flight that has a passenger who has ever said anything negative about China can fly over the country?

This is a very alarming situation in which Beijing attempts to hurt the region in a manner which feels all too similar to the embargo in the gulf between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. With the pro democracy movement in Hong Kong gaining steam, China is seeking to cripple the country rather than engage in dialog. It’s safe to say that this changes the risk assessment in Hong Kong travel.

Thanks to Oneworld Jetsetters for the alarming alert…

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