Cathay Pacific (CX, Hong Kong Int'l) CEO Rupert Hogg has resigned amid pressure from mainland China to crack down on some of its staff allegedly involved in anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The company said that Paul Loo, its COO, had also resigned.

Analysts agreed that Hogg’s resignation seemed necessary to placate Beijing, the Reuters news agency reported, but the shock announcement late on August 16 may stall the carrier's three-year turnaround plan that had been spearheaded by Hogg.

His replacement is Augustus Tang, chief executive of Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Limited (HAECO), which, like Cathay, is part of the Hong Kong- and London-based conglomerate Swire Group. Loo has been replaced by Ronald Lam, CEO of Cathay Pacific's LCC subsidiary HK Express, while Cathay has appointed Mandy Ng as HK Express’ new CEO.

As reported last week, Cathay Pacific instructed its staff not to “support or participate in illegal protests” or they could be fired - a turnaround for the carrier, as it had said the previous week that it would not stop employees from joining the demonstrations.

Tang’s priority will be to restore the brand and customer confidence in all markets, including Hong Kong, analysts told Reuters. The carrier will also have to try to curb further interference from mainland China.

“Augustus Tang and Ronald Lam have the experience and depth of knowledge of aviation and our people to be strong and effective leaders of Cathay Pacific at this sensitive time,” John Slosar, chairman of Cathay Pacific, said in a statement.

Protesters had occupied Hong Kong Int'l airport from August 9 as part of the demonstrations against an extradition bill and police brutality. However, a week later they moved out, with the airport operating normally on August 17, the South China Morning Post reported. Heavy security now includes two-metre-high barriers blocking the street-level entrances, and passengers entering the two remaining doors having to show a valid ticket or boarding pass to be allowed through.