Cathay Pacific chairman steps down amid Hong Kong protests

Rupert Hogg and John Slosar
On March 13, Cathay Pacific’s Chief Executive Rupert Hogg, left, speaks alongside Chairman John Slosar during a news conference following the release of the company’s annual results in Hong Kong. Hogg resigned in August; Slosar retired Wednesday.
(Anthony Wallace / AFP/Getty Images)

The chairman of Cathay Pacific Airways on Wednesday became the second top figure to resign from the Hong Kong carrier following pressure by Beijing over participation by some of its employees in anti-government protests.

The airline, one of the Chinese territory’s most prominent businesses, announced John Slosar was retiring.

Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg quit Aug. 16, becoming the highest-profile corporate casualty of pressure on companies to support the ruling Communist Party against the protesters.


Following Hogg’s resignation, a statement by Slosar said Cathay needed new management to “reset confidence.” There was no similar language in Wednesday’s announcement of Slosar’s departure.

Slosar is to be succeeded by Patrick Healy, a 31-year veteran of Swire Pacific Group, a major Cathay shareholder. Healy is managing director of Swire Coca-Cola Ltd.

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

The territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, announced Wednesday she was withdrawing the proposed law. She said Hong Kong officials would talk with the public about other possible changes.

Beijing earlier warned that Cathay employees who “support or take part in illegal protests” would be barred from flying to or over the mainland. Cathay said a pilot who was charged with rioting was removed from flying duties.

Slosar said in August that Cathay didn’t tell employees what to think, but that shifted following China’s warning. Hogg threatened penalties including possible firing if employees took part in “illegal protests.”

Cathay Pacific serves more than 200 destinations in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It has 33,000 employees. Its parent, Cathay Pacific Group, also owns Dragonair, Air Hong Kong and HK Express.

Hong Kong was promised a “high degree of autonomy” — a system dubbed “one country, two systems” by Beijing — when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

Government critics say that is being eroded by Hong Kong leaders and the Communist Party.