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Former Cathay pilot warns Australian businesses vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 6 days ago Bang Xiao, Melissa Clarke and Sally Brooks

Jeremy Man-ho Tam. © Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post via Getty Images Jeremy Man-ho Tam. A former Cathay Pacific Airways pilot has warned Australian businesses are vulnerable to political pressure from the Chinese Government, saying Beijing "completely destroyed" the culture of the airline he once worked for.

Jeremy Man-ho Tam was a Cathay pilot for 18 years but quit his job in August to protect the airline from being politically attacked by Beijing because Mr Tam was part of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Mr Tam, also a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, is meeting with federal politicians in Canberra on Monday and Tuesday.

In August, China's aviation regulator demanded Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways suspend personnel who have engaged in protests from staffing flights into its airspace.

"It could happen to any airline, even, let's say, Qantas. Let's imagine one of the pilots makes a statement to say, 'I support the Hong Kong movement, the five demands,'" Mr Tam said.

"He may also get pressure from the Chinese government telling Qantas 'I do not want that guy flying into our airspace, otherwise we will ban your airline from flying into our airspace'.

"That could happen. And also any other business as well who are doing business with China, they can also use the same excuse."

The five demands are the removal of the now-withdrawn extradition bill that sparked the protests; for the Government to stop calling protests "riots"; the release of arrested protesters; an independent inquiry into the actions of police; and universal suffrage.

'People will lose their patience'

Mr Tam's visit to Australia, along with pro-democracy political leaders Cheuk-yan Lee and Eric Yan-ho Lai and activist Dennis Chan, comes about a week after district council elections in Hong Kong delivered a resounding victory for the pro-democracy movement.

"It was sending a strong, clear and loud message to the Hong Kong Government, particularly to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, that Hong Kong people are still standing for our five demands and you must address them appropriately," Mr Tam said.

"We did have a relatively peaceful last couple of weeks and we hope that can continue, however people will lose their patience if you don't respond to their demands."

Despite the win for that political camp, the former pilot believes violent protests in Hong Kong will continue.

"It's been dragging on for five months and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

"[There] has been too much violence, but … the police … are also escalating their unnecessary force towards the protesters.

"Look at — that originally was quite a peaceful march on the streets and they got the permit up to 6:00pm.

"However at about 4:00pm, the police asked them to leave and cancelled the permit and started shooting tear gas.

"That is way before any of the petrol bombs were thrown or any of the violence from the protesters."

'Australia should make the judgement'

Cathay Pacific said any action taken against staff is "always in strict accordance with the terms of their relevant employment contracts". © ABC News: Dan Conifer Cathay Pacific said any action taken against staff is "always in strict accordance with the terms of their relevant employment contracts". Mr Tam said the group is in Australia to meet with politicians because it is important to talk to them face-to-face and answer any of their concerns.

He did not suggest Australia should follow the lead of the United States Congress and .

"It is up to the Australian Government, also the Parliament, rather than … an overseas lawmaker … to tell them what to do," he said.

"All we can do is present a case … Australia should make the judgement."

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