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…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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27 Comments

  1. This is over-interpretation of a perfectly justified regulatory action on the part of China, and a responsible move for that matter.

      1. The original statement states very clearly it’s about extreme, illegal and violent actions. There’s nothing about who says what on social media. Please read, ok ?

        No one wants to fly with pilots and crew members who are not emotional stable and attack anyone who have a different opinion. If you want, you can fly with them. You are all very extreme and pro-violence.

        The organization CAAC who issued this statement is also the first one to ban BOEING 737. CAAC is very well respected in the world.

        1. I did read. The problem is that China has a reputation for making loose definitions of the words extreme or illegal. No one wants to fly with dangerous pilots, but if someone has a peaceful political opinion (not a violent one) it should not serve as grounds to bar them. This is a reach from China and one that is a dangerous precedent for all.

      2. Perhaps reading more on this issue and what exactly happened to the bill will help you understand the situation better? Pro tip: try to not only read reports from US news agency, but also those from other asian countries, or even from China

  2. As a neutral man I don’t want take the flight by a pilot+riot. Does the German wings ring a bell?

    1. I don’t want anyone mentally unstable flying my plane either, but I also believe this sets a very dangerous precedent, which allows China to run further wild.

      1. caac are aiming the illegal rallies. for example, one co-pilot was arrested by the police when he was attending illegal rallies and did some violent activities last week.

        generally, the HK policy are quite neutral to the protest/rally applications. many applications were granted the Non-objection replies in June & July. even this Aug 10-11 weekend, there are more than 10 rallies approved. so let me put it clearly that attending an illegal rally is a high bar in HK.

  3. The only people that are crippling Hong Kong economy are the protesters. They are now occupying HK airport and make it difficult for travellers in bound and out bound. It has become a nuisance.

    Not all Hong Kong citizens support the protesters. We are running out of patience too.

  4. peaceful protests? Are you blind with the scene that protesters are throwing self-made bombs on the street and threaten passengers who refuse to accept their idea at HK airport? Shame on you the author.

  5. I didn’t think that the mainland would be so overt in their actions towards Hong Kong, especially given how much attention the protests have sparked. It is unfortunate, honestly.

    We were just in China and it was OK. There are some fabulous things to see and eat and the cities are relatively straightforward to navigate. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone to visit if they wanted to engage with Chinese history and culture.

    I pointedly avoided discussing politics with any of the mainlanders, but they wanted to discuss them with me. It is illuminating to listen to them talk about their political system, but much too complicated to post about in this comment.

    China will have to loosen their authoritarianism at some point, but I don’t know how they do that effectively given the huge investment they’ve made in using it to control the populace. I guess we’ll see.

    In regards to AA, don’t let the actions of a small cadre distract you from the literal millions of peaceful protestors.

  6. please leave your political opinion in your head as this is no place or your place to have an opinion. citizens of China don’t interfere or opinionate about the UK or US politics, so why are you? and no, I dont work for the Chinese government.

    1. Haha wait, you actually believe that China does not interfere in the West? No state sponsored hacks, media campaigns or trade threats? Since you tried to lecture me, let’s you have a go as well.

      1. Gilbert I really appreciate your honest opinion and am so sorry to see so many 30 cents flooding your posts. I fully support the pilots and crews who protest against the violation of human rights.

    2. How do you know Chineses don’t have or express any opinion about US, UK, India or any other country politics?

  7. The regime in China is doomed to fall someday. History shows it’s not in people’s nature to be abused by governments.

  8. What Cathay staffs are doing are far beyond the line of law. Previously pilots of Cathay pacific leaked out a list of Hong Kong polices who flys with Cathay and ordered the other airport staff to offload and delay them.

    Some pilots were also charged by Hong Kong police when they attacked police with knives and threw bombs into police stations. They were still with Cathay now. I really want to know, does the author of this article wants to fly with these pilots and is cool when he drive the plane to crash the building in your city ?

  9. I don’t see the problem with banning crews who are about to face criminal charges from flying into the Mainland.

  10. Cathay Pacific leaked passanger information especially policemen who are going to fly. Why don’t you mention that? While I support peaceful protest in HK, I think it is a terrible airline for doing such things. I remember BA had huge troubles when many people’s credit card information had leaked last year. Why don’t you have a fair comparison? Because you are a biased white extremist, who thinks anything China does is wrong. I am regular frequent flyer between London and HK, and I will never fly Cathay. If you like, in the name of your democracy, please go ahead.

  11. Supporters of China can demonstrate their true commitment by migrating to your beloved mainland where you will not have to concern yourself with protesters, privacy, human rights or replying to blogs like this because you will not be able to. Otherwise your protesting is simply rubbish. Why don’t you leave Hong Kong and let others protest, including Cathay staff, if they want. The sooner the communists are out of China, the better the future for China and the world. Go Hong Kong!

  12. Might want to stick to facts and not your political opinion.

    Would the US allow pilots from the Middle East who participated in anti-US rallies to fly planes into the US? Big fat chance, really.

    China may have a ‘questionable’ human rights record. But so does US. Remember Guantanamo?

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