China has warned it might be losing patience with what it called a “colour revolution” in Hong Kong.
It has said those who played with fire must not mistake Beijing’s restraint for weakness – they would eventually be punished.
A few days after that warning, protesters were back on the streets for the 10th straight weekend, defying a police ban on some of the marches and, again, facing tear gas.
Activists also staged a protest at the international airport to make arriving tourists aware of their campaign.
Protesters want leader Carrie Lam to resign, greater democratic reforms and an inquiry into alleged police violence.
But the chief executive said her priority was to stop the unrest that, she said, had hurt the city’s economy.
What options does China have to deal with anger in Hong Kong? And is a military intervention possible?
On Monday, Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific warned its staff that they could be fired if they “support or participate in illegal protests”, as the airline comes under pressure from Beijing.
The warning follows new regulations imposed by China’s aviation regulator requiring Cathay Pacific to submit manifests of staff on flights to the mainland or through its airspace.
Beijing told the airline that staff involved in the protests that have gripped Hong Kong for more than two months would be banned from flights to the mainland.
The airline has already said it would comply with those regulations, citing the importance of its business in China and the requirement to adhere to local rules.
But in a Monday message to staff, chief executive Rupert Hogg reiterated that Cathay Pacific employees would also face “disciplinary consequences” if they got involved in the pro-democracy protests.
“Cathay Pacific Group has a zero-tolerance approach to illegal activities. Specifically, in the current context, there will be disciplinary consequences for employees who support or participate in illegal protests,” Hogg wrote.
“These consequences could be serious and may include termination of employment.”
Hogg also specifically warned employees not to support or participate in a new protest at Hong Kong airport called Monday.
And he reminded staff that the “actions and words of our employees made outside of working hours can have a significant effect on the company.”
The protests in Hong Kong have infuriated Beijing and left Cathay Pacific in a difficult position.
It has already suspended a pilot who has been accused of rioting after allegedly participating in the Hong Kong protests.
And it said Saturday that it had fired two airport ground staff, without specifying why. Local media reported that they were accused of leaking the travel details of a Hong Kong police football team that was travelling to the mainland.
The firm is facing a boycott call in China, and its shares dropped more than 4% in Hong Kong trade on Monday