Cathay Pacific draws online hostility fueled by state media

Local | 9 Aug 2019 8:09 pm

Cathay Pacific Airways has become a high profile targets of a boycott campaign inspired by China's state media.

A #BoycottCathayPacific thread on Chinese social media platform has attracted more than 17 million views and 8,000 comments, partly fueled by articles from the powerful state-run press, AFP reports.

"The four sins of Cathay Pacific Airlines," read a headline this week in the People's Daily, the main mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, as it detailed actions by the carrier and its staff that were perceived as being supportive of the pro-democracy movement.

Taiwan's popular bubble tea is also feeling the heat. 

"Although bubble tea is delicious, it is nothing compared to national sovereignty," wrote one user on Weibo joining on online campaign against Taiwanese tea house Yifang.

"Starting today, I will boycott all bubble tea shops that support Hong Kong and Taiwan independence!"

"I will not buy it [bubble tea], even if I die of thirst!" posted another.

Global Times, one of the highest profile and most nationalistic state run media outlets, reported this week that the #bubbleteaboycott had attracted 230 million views on Weibo.

One of Yifang's branches in Hong Kong had reportedly hung a sign cheering on the city's pro-democracy protesters.

That shop in Hong Kong was later vandalised, according to Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS.

This in turn sparked a backlash in Taiwan, with some local shops on the self-governed island posting signs that said: "We cherish democracy and freedom".

Cathay Pacific has become a target partly because some of its air crew have joined protests and media reported one of its pilots had been charged with rioting.

The airline's flight attendants' union put its name to a joint statement with other aviation industry employees on Monday backing the protesters.

"Over the last 50 days, the government has been ignoring the demands of the people and using only police force to try to suppress voices, causing countless Hong Kong people to despair," said the statement, which was on the union's Facebook page.

In return, Cathay has endured a fierce backlash on the mainland.

"Cathay Pacific Airlines has repeatedly appeared in Hong Kong's unrest, and plays a disgraceful role," said a post published by the Communist Party Youth League on its official social media accounts.

Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar on Wednesday defended his workforce and freedom of thought.

"We employ 27,000 staff in Hong Kong doing all sorts of different jobs," Slosar said at a press conference following the release of company results which showed the protests had impacted passenger numbers in July.

"You would easily imagine that within that 27,000 we have virtually every opinion on every issue... we certainly wouldn't dream of telling them what they have to think about something."


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