The chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways and its chief customer and commercial officer resigned from the company Friday, likely high-profile casualties of Beijing's displeasure with the airline.

Cathay, which has been Hong Kong's gateway to the world for more than half a century, is caught between the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, where it employs more than 27,000 people, and the Chinese government which has taken a grim view of the protests. Its staff, like many in Hong Kong, are seen as sympathetic to the protests.

Cathay's board cited "recent events" and said there was nothing that shareholders need to be made aware of. CEO Rupert Hogg will be replaced by Augustus Tang from Monday, and Executive Director Paul Loo will be replaced by Ronald Lam.

Hogg said in a statement: “These have been challenging weeks for the airline and it is right that Paul and I take responsibility as leaders of the company.”

Rupert Hogg, who has resigned as Cathay Pacific's CEO, has been credited with helping to turn the airline profitable after two years of losses Rupert Hogg, who has resigned as Cathay Pacific's CEO, has been credited with helping to turn the airline profitable after two years of losses Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE

The airline recently fired two pilots over incidents connected to the protests in Hong Kong. One of the pilots was arrested and charged with rioting. In all it has fired four employees and suspended a fifth for their alleged involvement in the protests. China has used words like "violent" and "terrorism" to describe the protests by the young people in the island. 

The Mainland government has demanded from the airline crew lists of aircraft entering its airspace for approval, and asked it not to crew such aircraft with those involved in the protests. Two state-run Chinese banks have downgraded the airline's stock, which is seen as another move by Beijing to pile on pressure.  The company's stock has hit a 10-year low.

20190814_IBT_CathayPacific This image represents Cathy Pacific Airways Limited closing price in U.S. dollars Photo: IBT/Statista

Indicative of Beijing's anger, the state-run People's Daily recently ran an article titled, "The four sins of Cathay Pacific Airlines." 

The company's board told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in a statement Friday that Hogg has "also confirmed that he has resigned to take responsibility as a leader of the company in view of recent events and that he is not aware of any disagreement with the board."