19 Jan 2021
HSBC is facing growing pressure over its stance on Hong Kong after a pro-democracy activist clashed with its chief executive about its decision to freeze his bank accounts.
Ted Hui, a former Hong Kong legislative councillor who fled to Britain, revealed that Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, had written to him to explain why his accounts had been suspended. Mr Hui, 38, said that he did not accept Mr Quinn’s version of events and called on MPs in Britain to act against the bank.
“Any institution is an accomplice of human right infringement where it acts in contrary to its profession or against due procedures with the effect of oppressing freedom,” he wrote on Facebook. He said that international sanctions should be imposed on the bank.
HSBC is caught in the tensions between China and the West. The London-based bank, founded in Hong Kong in 1865, is focused heavily on China and Mr Quinn has set out plans to tilt its business even further towards the fast-growing markets of Asia. The turmoil in Hong Kong has thrust the FTSE 100 bank into the spotlight because the former British colony is its single biggest market.
Beijing clamped down on Hong Kong last year by imposing a new security law, raising fears that the territory is losing its autonomy. HSBC has faced a political backlash in Britain and America since it publicly supported Beijing’s security law last June.
Pressure on the bank grew in December when Mr Hui revealed that HSBC had frozen his accounts and those of other family members. The bank said at the time that it was “required to comply with the law in every jurisdiction in which we operate”.
Mr Hui was a member of the Democratic Party and faces nine charges in Hong Kong. They include perverting the course of justice and criminal damage. He said on Facebook that Mr Quinn had told him that HSBC “had no choice” over his accounts and had acted after notification from the Hong Kong police.
By Ben Martin, The Times, 19 January 2021
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