FedEx Pilot Arrested In China; Accused Of Illegally Transporting Ammunition

A FedEx pilot was arrested in the southern Chiense city of Guangzhou last week after flying deliveries throughout Asia from the Guangzhou airport, according to the Wall Street Journal

A FedEx Express airliner at Hong Kong International Airport. Chinese authorities detained a FedEx pilot at the company’s regional hub at China’s Guangzhou airport. PHOTO: ALEXANDER SHCHERBAK/ZUMA PRESS

Todd A. Hohn, a former US Air Force pilot, was waiting to catch a commercial flight on Cathay Dragon airlines to his home in Hong Kong on September 12 when he was detained by authorities and accused of carrying "nonmetallic pellets used in low-power replica air guns" in a checked bag. Chinese authorities say he was illegally transporting ammunition - and have launched a criminal investigation, according to the report. 

The detention comes as FedEx faces other investigations in China amid tense U.S.-China trade talks. Mr. Hohn was detained Sept. 12 by Chinese security officials who escorted him from a preboarding executive lounge, interviewed him at one of their facilities and retained his passport, cellphone and other communication devices, the people said.

Mr. Hohn was later moved to a hotel, and has been told he isn’t allowed to leave mainland China until the investigation concludes, the people familiar with the matter said. -Wall Street Journal

China has strict laws governing firearms, and the Journal notes that "it is potentially a criminal offense to possess airsoft guns, similar to BB pellet guns, which are sometimes sold by online retailers as toys," but that it is "unclear that carrying airsoft pellets alone would be considered a violation."

Reached briefly for comment at his hotel room on Thursday, Hohn referred all further questions to a family lawyer. 

According to a FedEx union website, Hohn was part of a group of 21 relatively new pilots who joined the company - having been welcomed by a union membership committee on June 20, 2017. Hohn stepped down as commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma that same month. 

In June, FedEx issued an apology after it misrouted packages from Huawei - including two which were sent to the company's Memphis hub instead of to China after the shipper changed its internal systems to comply with new restrictions from the US Commerce Department

Chinese officials launched an investigation after Huawei publicly complained. 

Chinese police have since opened two investigations into FedEx. Last month, the Chinese police said they were investigating FedEx over the discovery of a gun in a package sent from the U.S. to China. FedEx said the incident dated back to June, and that it had notified the authorities about the shipment at the time. -Wall Street Journal

The company issued a second apology in June after a Huawei smartphone being shipped to the United States from the UK was returned to its sender, a British journalist. 

And in early September, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that it had launched yet another probe after FedEX was suspected of illegally shipping knives to Hong Kong. FedEx claims that the shipment never left its city of origin and was promptly handed over to authorities. 

How much this will further complicate trade negotiations is unclear, however it certainly qualifies as a 'global uncertainty' in a series of ever-escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington.