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China arrests former US Air Force colonel turned FedEx pilot

Col. Todd A. Hohn, 97th Air Mobility Wing commander official photo. (U.S. Air Force/Released)
September 19, 2019

A FedEx corp. pilot has been detained by Chinese authorities in the province of Guangzhou, for allegedly transporting ammunition.

Todd A. Hohn, a former Air Force pilot and current pilot for FedEx, has been held by Chinese authorities since his arrest last week on Sept. 12, the Wall Street Journal reported. Hohn was detained while waiting to board a flight home to Hong Kong.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources close to the arrest, said Hohn had been carrying nonmetallic pellets like those used in low-powered air guns and Chinese authorities have alleged Hohn was illegally transporting ammunition and have reportedly begun a criminal investigation.

It is not yet clear if Hohn was also carrying live rounds or if he was arrested for the airgun pellets alone.

Hohn, like many other regional FedEx employees, lives in Hong Kong and makes regular shipments to a FedEx shipping hub in the Southern Chinese province of Guangzhou. Chinese border police have been checking baggage bound for Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protests are ongoing.

Police have called for the use of live ammunition against violent protesters, according to Radio Free Asia.

The arrest also comes amidst Chinese government scrutiny of FedEx. In recent weeks, the shipping company has come under other Chinese investigations for shipping knives to Hong Kong, allowing a gun to be shipped to China, according to the South China Morning Post. FedEx has also reportedly sent packages meant for the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei to the U.S. after Huawei was placed under U.S. investigation.

Hohn had reportedly completed a round of delivery flights and was waiting to catch his own commercial flight home when he was escorted from an executive lounge and questioned. Authorities reportedly took his passport, along with his cell phone and other communications devices.

Hohn was also reportedly flying out on a flight with Cathay Dragon, a subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. The airline has also seen increased scrutiny from Chinese authorities after some of its employees were said to have taken part in the Hong Kong protests and having voiced support for them online.

Following the arrest, Hohn was reportedly moved to a hotel room and told not to leave mainland China.

Attempts by Wall Street Journal reporters to contact Hohn also stopped short. After answering a call from a reporter, Hohn directed reporters to his family lawyer and ended the call.

Hohn’s lawyer in Niceville, Fla., confirmed his arrest to Wall Street Journal reporters.

FedEx market performance has been under pressure throughout ongoing trade disputes between China and the U.S.

Those trade tensions, along with the end of a relationship with Amazon, have recently forced the shipping company to lower its profit forecasts for the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported.