MPs have accused HSBC and other British banks of tacitly endorsing the suppression of human rights in Hong Kong.
“British banks such as HSBC Bank Plc have been complicit in suppressing the human rights of Hongkongers, by proactively supporting the National Security Law,” the Hong Kong All-Party Parliamentary Group said in a report published today.
The report also concluded that banks had bowed to pressure from Hong Kong authorities by blocking residents with a British National Overseas (BNO) visa from accessing their pension funds.
BNO visas were introduced by the UK government to enable citizens from Hong Kong to live in the UK. At the end of 2021, around 104,000 people had taken the UK up on the BNO visa scheme.
Under the NSL, however, a BNO visa is not a valid form of proof to withdraw funds, leaving many without access to their pensions.
“Not only is the decision to deny Hongkongers access to their pensions immoral and financially limiting, but it may even lead to Hongkongers having to return back to Hong Kong and put their lives at risk because they could not afford to settle in the UK,” the report said.
The report recommends that banks should unfreeze the accounts of political targets and “demonstrate its efforts to respect human rights”.
A spokesperson from HSBC said: “As we told the APPG in November 2021, HSBC has an enduring commitment to Hong Kong, its people and communities. It is where we were founded nearly 160 years ago.
“Like all banks, we have to obey the law, and the instructions of the regulators, in every region in which we operate,” they added.
The NSL was passed in 2020, which restricts freedom of speech and assembly.
In June 2020, the Asia-Pacific chief executive of HSBC, Peter Wong Tung-shun, publicly backed the introduction of the NSL.
Despite being headquartered in London, HSBC makes about two thirds of its profit in Asia making it particularly vulnerable to political pressure in the area.
Standard Chartered, which also has a big presence in Hong Kong, came out in support of the National Security Law last year as well. A statement on its website said: “We believe the national security law can help maintain the long term economic and social stability of Hong Kong”.
Standard Chartered, which was mentioned in the report, was contacted for comment.