Beijing (AFP)

The Chinese state media, relayed by tightly controlled social networks, have increased calls to boycott companies suspected of supporting pro-democracy protesters who daily invade the streets of Hong Kong.

Among the main targets of this campaign orchestrated by Beijing are the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific, a Taiwanese tea house and the Japanese manufacturer of Pocari Sweat, a very popular energy drink.

"The four sins of Cathay Pacific Airlines," headlined last week the People's Daily, the press organ of the ruling Communist Party, listing the actions of the group's staff considered favorable to the protest movement.

Hong Kong is experiencing its worst political crisis since its return to Beijing by London in 1997, with a wave of violent demonstrations in progress for two months.

After obtaining the suspension of a decreed extradition project to China, the protesters broadened their demands, now demanding more democracy and autonomy vis-à-vis Beijing.

Echoing critics of Beijing's power, China's state media has repeatedly denounced "radical" protests organized by "violent criminals". Chinese social networks, controlled by the "Great Wall Computer" erected by the censors of the regime, have taken over.

The Chinese microblogging site Weibo is broadcasting the #BoycottCathayPacific campaign (boycott Cathay Pacific), which has generated more than 17 million views and 8,000 comments.

- "Freedom of thought" -

Some of Cathay Pacific's staff joined the protest movement and, according to local media reports, one of his pilots was charged with participating in riots.

The Cathay Pacific Shipowners' Union supported the protesters: "In the last 50 days the government has ignored the demands of the people and used police to try to choke out voices, pushing many Hong Kongers in despair, "he protested on his Facebook page.

The reaction of Beijing's power was not long in coming.

"Cathay Pacific Airlines has repeatedly appeared in unrest in Hong Kong, playing a shameful role," insurged the Communist Youth League on its social network.

And the General Directorate of Chinese Civil Aviation demanded Friday that the company prevents the staff supporting the pro-democracy movement are assigned to flights between mainland China or crossing its airspace.

Cathay Pacific President John Slosar on Wednesday defended the group's employees, highlighting their freedom of thought.

"We employ 27,000 people in Hong Kong (...) we obviously do not imagine telling them what they have to think about certain subjects," he told the press.

- Haro on bubble tea -

Another company in the crosshairs of Beijing, Yifang, the Taiwanese franchise of "bubble tea" (cold tea mix or hot scented tapioca pearls).

One of his stores in Hong Kong allegedly exhibited a sign encouraging pro-democracy protesters, before being vandalized, according to local press.

A campaign calling for a boycott of the brand, #bubbleteaboycott, recorded 230 million views on Weibo, reported the Global Times, an English-language daily considered close to Chinese power.

"I would not buy bubble tea, even if I had to die of thirst," one of the Weibo users said.

The Japanese manufacturer of the drink Pocari Sweat, Otsuka, was also involved in the protest movement.

Pro-democracy protesters welcomed the group's decision to remove one of its commercials from the TV station Hong Kong TVB, which protesters blame favorable coverage in Beijing.

In the face of calls for a boycott, the company's mainland China subsidiary split a statement that it operates separately from its branch in Hong Kong, under the principle of "one country, two systems". .

© 2019 AFP