News about a Hong Kong-based FedEx pilot being stopped and detained at Guangzhou’s airport a week ago for carrying “prohibited ammunition” is proof that the US multinational courier’s bumpy ride amid the US-China trade war and protests turmoil in Hong Kong is far from over.
Chinese papers noted on Friday that Todd Hohn was intercepted by immigration agents with Guangzhou Customs before he could board a Hong Kong-bound Cathay Dragon flight at Baiyun International Airport on September 12.
He was subsequently detained in an airport hotel room after some airgun pellets were found in his luggage. He had just finished a round of deliveries there and was about to head back to his home in Hong Kong.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the incident on Thursday evening and FedEx also confirmed the detention.
Hohn, a retired US Air Force colonel, has been granted bail but is not allowed to leave mainland China until a criminal investigation has been completed. He reportedly has access to a family lawyer.
FedEx said it was still working with appropriate authorities “to gain a better understanding of the facts.” It is also understood that the US consulates in both Hong Kong and Guangzhou have been in liaison with Hohn and FedEx’s offices in the two cities to offer assistance.
The pellets found in Hohn’s bag were made from non-metallic materials said to have been fired from low-pressure airguns.
FedEx has been running a 100,000-square-meter logistics center with its own control tower at Guangzhou’s airport since 2005 as an airfreight transshipment node serving its 20 outposts throughout Asia.
Local papers in Guangzhou said the detention of a FedEx employee would not affect the city’s longstanding partnership with the company, and that Hohn had been “treated with courtesy” when he was stopped and transferred to a third location for questioning and allowed to contact FedEx and his family members in Hong Kong and Florida.
FedEx has been in Beijing’s sights. Other investigations have been launched by Chinese authorities over the past four months amid threats to put the Tennessee-based firm on a blacklist of “untrustworthy entities” to be slapped with sanctions or restrictions on its right to operate, as part of Beijing’s countervailing measures against a similar move by the US.
In May, the US logistics behemoth was blasted by Beijing after Chinese tech powerhouse Huawei revealed that over 100 international consignments meant for domestic recipients had gone missing, only to resurface in the courier’s US office. FedEx said these packages were inadvertently delivered to wrong addresses and apologized for the “misrouting”, but China’s State Post Bureau soon launched a probe, which is still ongoing.
Huawei has reportedly stopped couriering the majority of its packages via FedEx and turned instead to rival firms such as UPS and SF Express, a domestic delivery firm.
Earlier, in the thick of Hong Kong’s anti-China extradition bill demonstrations, FedEx’s China branch blundered into trouble again over its “delivery irregularities”. It was accused of shipping restricted guns, knives and weapons into the city. Xinhua said these packages were stopped by customs authorities in Guangdong for investigation.