Flying Chernobyl

Five Things You Need to Read Today

1. One Country, One System

The protests in Hong Kong continue to produce inspiring stories of courage. Here is one about Rupert Hogg, the CEO of Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways.

According to local Hong Kong media reports, Beijing authorities asked Hogg to hand over a list of Cathay Pacific employees who had taken part in the recent anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong. Instead of betraying his employees and endangering their safety, he only provided a list of one name—his own.

Note that this link is to a paper from Taiwan, where people are watching Hong Kong very closely, because it shows them what “One Country, Two Systems” really means.

Hogg resigned and was replaced by a new CEO who declared a “zero-tolerance” policy for political activity, explaining, “The way every single one of us acts, not only at work serving our customers but also outside work—on social media and in everyday life—impacts how we are perceived as a company.” If you feel tempted to comment that this is just like life in the US, try to keep a sense of perspective. Vague fears of repercussions for what you say on social media are pretty trivial compared to the “climate of fear” for Cathay-Pacific workers.

One cabin crew member who wished to remain anonymous told BBC Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse: “We try not to talk about politics during a flight because you don’t know which colleagues are at your side. The company says that we should not support the ‘illegal’ protests.”

“So if somebody who is pro-China finds out you went to the protest, they find some way to report you to the company. Maybe not for a political issue but for some safety issue that might mean you lose your job. So we are not able to talk in the flights.”

Some fear being detained while working routes to mainland China.

So the other part of this story is the extent to which even a Hong Kong company is honeycombed with stooges for the regime—one of the big ways in which contact with dictatorship corrupts a society.

That leads me to the one big correction I’ve gotten on my previous article about Hong Kong, which is a warning about how little sympathy there is for the Hong Kong protests among ordinary people on the Chinese mainland.

It’s not for lack of trying. One of the key protest sites for a while now has been the train station in Kowloon that connects Hong Kong to mainland, giving Hong Kong protesters an opportunity to bring their message to people traveling from there.

But it’s still the case, as one Chinese journalist puts it, that “there’s only one version of the story here” on the mainland, and it’s the central government’s version, portraying the protesters as dangerous “rioters.”

But there is also something uglier at work here: a mainland resentment of Hong Kong, including resentment specifically of the fact that Hong Kongers are willing to pay a price to fight for their freedom.

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