As the red curtain continues to descend upon Cathay Pacific, employees have been warned to “exercise caution” concerning their social media use. The undertone is clear: any dissent will be punished swiftly and harshly. But just what crosses the line?
On August 9th, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) imposed strict new conditions on Cathay Pacific concerning the behavior of its employees, including social media use. The rules centered on employee engagement in “illegal” activity. Transmitting those “rules” to employees, Cathay Pacific advised:
Employees should always exercise caution about how their social media usage may be relevant to their own employment, the welfare of others and the business. Any employee who participates in illegal activities will be subject to an investigation process which may lead to termination of their employment
New CEO Augustus Tang added:
Employees should reflect on and examine their own behavior in relation to these points, exercise sound judgment and avoid putting themselves in a position where they could reasonably be questioned for being in breach of these conditions of the notice.
But Cathay Pacific fails to address one critical matter: what activity is illegal?
Danny Lee of the South China Morning Post posed this question directly to Cathay Pacific, which was unable to answer, calling it a “complex issue with no guidelines explaining the criteria.”
Is Cathay Pacific too afraid to ask the CAAC in Beijing for clarification?
How is an employee supposed to know what crosses the line? Is protest illegal? Expressing solidarity with protestors? Voicing preference for universal suffrage or greater autonomy from Beijing?
From the perspective of the CAAC, vagueness is a strategy. Use fear and intimidation of job loss and other repercussions to shut employees up. If they don’t know what crosses the line, they will be less likely to dance on that line.
But while Beijing’s strategy may clear, Cathay Pacific has a duty to clarify this for employees.
Cathay Pacific even warned employees not to speak about protests among themselves:
What might be assumed to be a private conversation among friends often travels further than one had intended.
It’s clear Cathay Pacific is living in fear right now. And it would be disingenuous to say that is not at least understandable, considering the geopolitics and that half of Cathay Pacific’s revenue comes from Mainland flights.
But that does not excuse opaque threats made by Cathay Pacific to their employees over social media use. As a starting point for negotiation, employees deserve a clear explanation of what is deemed acceptable and what is not.
image: Cathay Pacific
Sounds to me like a caution, not a threat. CX doesn’t want to be put in the position of policing its employees social media activities, so it’s advising them to exercise caution. “Don’t do anything stupid that will allow the Chinese to ID you as a troublemaker, so they won’t force us to fire you.”
And yes it’s a very sad situation.
As an example of unethical behavior, there has been CX employee leaking passenger information on social network
I don’t think anyone objects to employees being fired for that. But what about those who just take part is peaceful demonstrations?
A peaceful activities does not caused public services such as airport to be unable to operate.
Are Dave and James the same person?
Cathay Pacific is so typical of some HK young folks , head and brainless , without concepts of country of origin, culture and racial distinctions. Who are they ? Feel sorry for these colonial left behind.
There is an implied threat in it. We’ve seen this week the reversal of the commonly used Chinese strategy “ kill the rooster to scare the monkey”, to the extent that they went straight for the top echelons of Cathay. That doesn’t mean the ‘roosters’ are not in the firing line…they are, they know it and it’s underscored, however obliquely, in this missive.
Nothing new nor news .this is common in all corporation large or small….. Regardless of country and government .I support rights , but I also follow rules as to where, how and when to perform them.
….maybe it’s “kill the monkey to scare the tiger”..I forget exactly, but the meaning is the same.
America pokes its nose, bombs a place and kills thousands in order to bring democracy to a country.
Some millions are demonstrating for democracy and its just crickets in america.
If you search carefully, you will know the reason. Some Cathay Pacific employee leaked the flight information so that more protesters can go to the airport to delay the flight further. A group of HK police soccer team flight information was leaked by Cathay Pacific employee. These are all great threats to flight or passenger safety. If the employees keep on leaking the information using social nedia tools, what do you think will happen?
And that’s fine. They should be fired for that. But why not just spell that out. Why such an open-ended threat?
In legal terms, “blanket approval”. You’re not stupid Matt. Surely you understood.
@Debit: Quite a contraction indeed.
What we are witnessing I think is the collision between a western company with western notions of freedom of expression and the fact that this airline operates from and is regulated by a deeply repressive old style communist regime. I would not be at all surprised if over time Cathay employees come to find that expressing thoughts which Beijing doesn’t like gets them fired or worse.
Don’t protest while wearing company uniform. If you use social media don’t put that can connect you to Cathay Pacific.
I would like to say “Keep the protests up. Don’t stop!”
Fine. Spell that out, though.
Thank you for keeping attention on this issue. We have all become far to complacent and it’s so easy to assume that the veneer of modernity one now sees in China means that everything there is fine. It’s not, if you want to have the freedom to think what you want, and dare express an opinion.
Please keep highlighting China’s repressive moves.
It’s a way to effective spread social credit scores.
They are illogical according to common sense but they are logical according to the Chinese special version of logic.
By the Chinese definition, the protest is illegal since Hong Kong police refused to approve some of those protests. Hence anyone who support the protest are criminal lawbreakers. Expressing solidarity with protesters is also seen as problematic, since Chinese government deem all the protesters law-breaking rioters, hence any solidarity being expressed would be seen by the Chinese government as agree with lawbreaking behavior. Or they might even described as terrorism sympathizer since the Chinese government have recently classified some protesters as terrorist for the disruption they caused.
Cathay have already meet CAAC in private. Sure they would know what the CAAC expect from them.
The CAAC won’t told you the details since they will evolve over time and they are not even trying to pretend they are reasonable.