28 Aug 2020
HSBC is facing mounting pressure over its stance on Hong Kong after the United States claimed that the bank was helping China to crack down on pro-democracy supporters.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, attacked the London-based lender for its treatment of executives at Next Digital, a Hong Kong-based newspaper publisher.
Jimmy Lai, Next Digital’s founder and a high-profile pro-democracy supporter, was arrested this month under the new security law that Beijing controversially imposed on the former British colony in June.
It has emerged that accounts with HSBC held by Mr Lai and other Next Digital executives have been frozen by the lender. “The bank is thus maintaining accounts for individuals who have been sanctioned for denying freedom for Hong Kongers, while shutting accounts for those seeking freedom,” Mr Pompeo claimed.
It is the second time that Mr Pompeo has criticised HSBC over Hong Kong. In June he accused the bank of being a “corporate kowtow” after it voiced support for Beijing’s new security law. Politicians in Britain, including Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, also have criticised HSBC for its stance.
In June, Peter Wong, HSBC’s most senior executive in the Asia-Pacific region, signed a petition that backed the security law.
“Free nations must ensure that corporate interests are not suborned by the [Chinese Communist Party] to aid its political repression,” Mr Pompeo said in his latest broadside at HSBC, in which he referred to Mr Wong’s decision to back the petition.
HSBC has found itself in the middle of growing animosity between China and the West. It is heavily tilted towards Hong Kong, mainland China and Asia, which are important growth engines for the bank.
By Ben Martin, The Times, 27 August 2020
Read more at The Times
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