HSBC is “cheerleading” for the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign to strip away Hong Kongers’ human rights, Nathan Law, a pro-democracy activist, told City A.M. today.
Law, a former member of Hong Kong’s parliament, accused Britain’s largest lender of putting profits ahead of taking a stand against Beijing eroding the city’s citizens’ freedoms through the imposition of the controversial national security law.
Adherence to a “profit seeking model” is motivating HSBC to stay, Law said, adding the lender is “cheerleading for the regime”.
Law, 29, a former pro-democracy Hong Kong politician and strong critic of the CCP, fled to London after Beijing imposed the national security law in 2020.
His criticism comes as the United Nations Human Rights Committee today said the law is being used to crack down on dissent and freedom of speech in the city.
“HSBC and others must surely consider the growing reputation and legal risks of continuing to slavishly support a draconian security law that has been roundly condemned by the UN,” Benedict Rogers, chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, a human rights group, told City A.M.
Chinese officials have argued the legislation was necessary to restore order in the city after months of anti-government protests in 2019.
Law said Beijing has taken away Hong Kongers’ “freedom of expression” and that the former British colony “is no longer enjoying its rule of law”.
China regained control of Hong Kong from the UK in 1997 with the guarantee it protected the city’s autonomy.
Despite being headquartered in the UK, HSBC makes most of its profits in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong and China.
In the first three months of this year, some $2.8bn (£2.3bn) of HSBC’s $4.2bn (£3.5bn) profits were generated in Asia.
One of the bank’s biggest shareholders, Chinese insurer Ping An, has been pushing for HSBC to break out its Asia business.
HSBC is set to ramp up investment in the area, according to the Reuters news agency.
In its latest set of results, the bank warned the imposition of the national security law in Hong Kong could “materially” impact its future finances.
Another British based bank, Standard Chartered, which has a heavy presence in Asia, has also been criticised for prioritising profits over Hong Kongers’ freedoms.
HSBC declined to comment.
Standard Chartered did not respond in time to a request for comment.