Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has lashed out at HSBC’s stance on proposed security legislation in Hong Kong, saying the government “will not sacrifice the people of Hong Kong over the altar of banker bonuses”.
Raab said the UK had a “historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong to protect their autonomy and protect their freedoms” and that China still had the opportunity to not implement its controversial security legislation.
HSBC has supported the implementation of the new laws, which pro-democracy activists have said would destroy freedom of speech.
The proposed new laws would see criticism of the Communist Party of China banned and Chinese security agencies set up in Hong Kong for the first time.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo slammed HSBC’s Asia-Pacific chief executive Peter Wong for backing the new laws, accusing the British bank of a “corporate kowtow” to Beijing.
He said the “browbeating” of HSBC by China’s communist leadership “should serve as a cautionary tale”.
Raab has said that the new legislation would strip Hong Kong of its autonomy and that if implemented the UK would grant visas, with pathways to citizenship, for millions of residents.
When asked at the daily press briefing about HSBC’s support for the new laws, Raab took a swipe at the British bank.
“Businesses will make their own judgement calls, but let me just put it this way – we will not sacrifice the people of Hong Kong over the altar of banker bonuses,” he said.
“We’ve made a historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong to protect their autonomy and protect their freedoms and so has China.
“For us, this is a point of principle and I think it’s right we live up to our historic responsibilities and we stick up for the people and stand up for the people of Hong Kong at this very sensitive time.”
It was revealed in the Sunday Times yesterday that HSBC’s head of public affairs Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles was urging FTSE 100 companies to lobby the government to act more pro-Beijing.
Cowper-Coles is also the chair of the pro-Beijing China-Britain Business Council (CBBC).