Cathay Pacific CEO resigns after pressure from Beijing

/ CBS/AP

Fears of military crackdown in Hong Kong

The CEO of Cathay Pacific Airways resigned Friday following pressure by Beijing on the Hong Kong carrier over participation by some of its employees in anti-government protests. Rupert Hogg resigned "to take responsibility as a leader of the company in view of recent events," the company said in a statement.

Rupert Hogg became the highest-profile corporate casualty of official Chinese pressure on companies to support the ruling Communist Party's position. In a statement, Hogg said recent weeks had been "challenging" for the airline.

Beijing jolted Hong Kong companies last week when it warned that Cathay Pacific employees who "support or take part in illegal protests" would be barred from flying to or over the mainland. Cathay Pacific said a pilot who was charged with rioting had been removed from flying duties.

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"There is no doubt that our reputation and brand are under immense pressure and this pressure has been building for some weeks, particularly in the all-important market of Mainland China," Hogg in an internal memo, according to The Wall Street Journal.

This is a powerful ban if strictly carried out. H.K. airport literally sits on the edge of airspace managed by mainland China. It actually means those employees will also not able to fly most (of not all) European/Japanese routes — anything north bound. @cathaypacific https://t.co/7lHazCJkml

— Gao Yuan (@GaoYuan86) August 9, 2019

Hong Kong is in its third month of protests that started in opposition to a proposed extradition law but have expanded to include demands for a more democratic system.

Cathay Pacific needs new management to "reset confidence" because its commitment to safety and security had been "called into question," company Chairman John Slosar said in a statement.

Augustus Tang, a veteran of the company's operations in Hong Kong, Japan and Malaysia, was named to succeed Hogg, the airline said.

First published on August 16, 2019 / 8:27 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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