Bank of England governor Mark Carney has pulled out of a dinner in the Square Mile designed to foster relations between London and China.
The City of London Corporation is holding the event at Guildhall on 3 September. It will be attended by China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, the Corporation’s policy chief Catherine McGuinness and lord mayor Peter Estlin.
Some City councillors are unhappy at the timing of the event, as police in Hong Kong continue to clash with pro-democracy protesters. The protests were originally sparked by a proposed bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Councillor Richard Crossan said: “The City must use this event to remind China of its responsibilities on human rights, democracy and free speech in Hong Kong. As the situation in Hong Kong develops, the City must also remember that it is not just a financial services lobbying group. It has moral responsibilities, whether it wants them or not.”
Another councillor told City A.M: “There’s a question of whether we should even hold a knees-up on the date of 70 years of the founding of the communist dictatorship that has cost millions of lives. If the red army rolls into Hong Kong, it would be unthinkable to hold this event.”
Carney was originally due to speak at the event but a source said he had since pulled out, citing a “diary issue”.
City A.M. understands that the bank intends to send a senior representative to the event.
The Chinese military has so far stayed out of the conflict, but in the last few days tanks have amassed on Hong Kong’s border. Ambassador Liu also warned earlier this week that Beijing would “not sit on its hands and watch” if the situation became “uncontrollable”.
China has become a central plank of the Corporation’s lobbying since the 2016 EU referendum. The City has placed itself as the “natural western hub” of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which the corporation estimates could add up to £1.8bn annually to UK GDP.
“The Corporation is very committed to developing that money funnel to make up for what it will lose to Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin and Luxembourg,” one councillor said.
A City of London Corporation spokesperson said: “We host a number of events throughout the year designed to support the government’s efforts to strengthen relationships with key trading partners around the globe for the benefit of the City, London and the UK.”
The Bank of England declined to comment.