HSBC has been criticised for closing bank accounts held by one of the few remaining opposition parties in Hong Kong as well as some of its core members.
According to the Hong Kong Free Press, HSBC has closed three accounts belonging to the League of Social Democrats.
In a letter explaining the decision, the bank wrote: “We acknowledge that this decision may be disappointing for your company, and we apologise for it. Nevertheless, we kindly request your understanding as we have carefully taken into account multiple factors and conducted a comprehensive assessment prior to reaching this decision.”
Dickson Chau, vice chairman of the league, said the accounts had supported the party’s operations since it was founded in 2006. The accounts were mainly used to receive donations.
Speaking to the paper, Chau said “this incident showed how difficult it is for civil organisations that did not opt to dissolve to survive now. Its obvious that this is a political decision”.
Speaking to the Times, Iain Duncan Smith, co-chair of the interparliamentary alliance on China, described HSBC’s behaviour as “appalling”.
“HSBC is now very much a Chinese bank. They are not a global bank, they do get the protections of London, but they do exactly what they are told by China, so they have basically become part of the Chinese infrastructure,” he said.
The criticism of HSBC follows a damning report published by the Hong Kong APPG earlier this year which concluded HSBC was “complicit in suppressing the human rights of Hongkongers”.
The bank is attempting to maintain a difficult balancing act between east and west as geopolitical tensions mount. HSBC makes the majority of its profit from its operations in China and Hong Kong.
It recently staved off a campaign led by its largest shareholder Ping An to split up the bank. Amongst other things, Ping An argued that HSBC’s position straddling east and west was becoming increasingly untenable.
HSBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.