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Citic joins China firms in Cathay Pacific boycott

Besides the Citic Group unit, China Huarong International Holdings and China Resources National Corp have also barred their employees from booking flights on the Hong Kong carrier.

Hong Kong

ANOTHER Chinese state-run company has told employees to avoid taking Cathay Pacific Airways flights, adding to the pressure on Hong Kong's dominant carrier after its workers took part in anti-Beijing protests.

China Citic Bank International, a Hong Kong-based unit of the nation's largest state-run conglomerate, sent a message to staff on Wednesday, saying that "no employee shall travel by flights operated by Cathay Pacific Group" for business purposes with immediate effect, according to a copy of the memo seen by Bloomberg.

A representative for the bank in Hong Kong confirmed the authenticity of the directive and said it was sent to ensure travel safety.

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For personal trips, the bank said, staff should avoid flying on airlines "with safety warnings imposed by relevant regulators". The unit of Citic Group joins China Huarong International Holdings and finance-to-brewing conglomerate China Resources National Corp in banning their employees from booking flights on the Hong Kong carrier.

Cathay, which has emerged as the most visible corporate target for China during the demonstrations, saw its shares tumble to a 10-year low this week.

The boycotts are the latest sign of how the Hong Kong protests are fraying ties between mainland China and the city. Cathay, controlled by the UK's Swire family, counts state-run Air China Ltd as its second-largest shareholder.

Cathay didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the boycotts.

The airline's troubles with China began emerging last week, when China's civil aviation authority issued a major aviation safety warning to the company for failing to adequately respond to employees participating in the months-long protests roiling the former British colony.

In response, Cathay has said it would comply with China's directives; it warned employees not to participate in the demonstrations and fired two pilots in connection with the unrest. The regulator said on Thursday that Cathay has been complying with the various orders it had been given to rectify the matter. BLOOMBERG