By Trefor Moss
The chairman for Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. resigned, weeks after the chief executive quit when the Hong Kong airline came under fire from Beijing because some of its employees took part in antigovernment protests.
John Slosar, who became the airline's chairman in 2014 after having served as its chief executive, will be replaced in November, the airline said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. It said his replacement would be Patrick Healy, currently the managing director of Swire Beverages in Hong Kong. The U.K.'s Swire Group is the largest shareholder in Cathay Pacific.
The airline said Mr. Slosar was retiring and that his departure wasn't related to "any disagreement with the board of the company."
Cathay Pacific has found itself caught between a critical Chinese government on the one hand and many of its own staff and customers on the other as protests have roiled Hong Kong for the past three months.
Many Cathay Pacific staff took part in a general citywide strike in August. Company management initially tried to keep a neutral stance. In the wake of the strike, Mr. Slosar said Cathay respected the right of staff to take part in protests. "We certainly wouldn't dream of telling them what they have to think about something," he said at the time.
But that approach upset customers in mainland China, who began attacking the airline on social media and demanding it take a harder line on staff involved in the protests.
China's aviation authority ordered the airline to remove any employees involved in protests from flights to the mainland, and to submit crew manifests in advance for verification. State-run Air China Ltd. owns 30% of Cathay.
The markets also punished the airline for its handling of the crisis: Cathay shares lost nearly a quarter of their value between mid-July and mid-August. They rose 7% Wednesday on the news of Mr. Slosar's resignation.
Rupert Hogg resigned as chief executive last month, after earlier warning employees that anyone caught taking part in illegal protests could be fired. Paul Loo, chief customer and commercial officer also quit.
Mr. Hogg's replacement, Augustus Tang, sent a message to staff upon taking over that Cathay would follow Beijing's demands to the letter. "We must and will ensure 100 percent compliance," Mr. Tang said.
The airline has fired at least 20 employees or forced them to quit, according to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, including Rebecca Sy, an airline-crew union leader who also worked as a flight attendant. Ms. Sy told reporters last month she had been sacked because of posts she had made on Facebook, and accused airline management of waging a campaign of terror against its staff to force them to toe Beijing's line.
Late last month, protesters began targeting Cathay over what they saw as its capitulation to the mainland at the expense of its Hong Kong staff, suggesting that the airline's attempts to placate Beijing could come at the cost of alienating its Hong Kong customer base.
Routes between the mainland and Hong Kong account for a fifth of Cathay's seat capacity, according to CAPA-Centre for Aviation, and many of its other routes fly over China's airspace, making it vulnerable to any sanctions imposed by China's aviation regulator.
Write to Trefor Moss at Trefor.Moss@wsj.com