HSBC has reportedly warned Downing Street against a ban on Huawei in 5G telecoms networks, in a further escalation of tensions between Britain and China.
The bank’s chairman Mark Tucker made private representations to the Prime Minister’s advisers, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
HSBC reportedly claimed it could face reprisals in China if Huawei was blocked from selling equipment to the networks being built by British operators.
Britain designated the Chinese telecoms giant a “high-risk vendor” in January, capping its 5G involvement at 35 per cent and excluding it from the data-heavy element of the network.
Last week, HSBC was criticised for its support of China’s new security law for Hong Kong, after Asia-Pacific chief Peter Wong signed a petition backing the law.
The Chinese parliament approved the controversial bill at the end of last month, which imposes national security legislation on Hong Kong to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.
In a statement HSBC said: “We respect and support laws and regulations that will enable Hong Kong to recover and rebuild the economy and, at the same time, maintain the principle of ‘one country two systems’”.
Britain and the US have said the proposed laws violate Beijing’s obligations to the territory, with foreign secretary Dominic Raab saying it was a breach of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The UK announced it would offer visas to the 3m British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders in the former British territory, with a pathway to future citizenship.
HSBC’s declaration marks a significant departure for the bank, which has refused to comment on the unrest in the city over the past year.
Although HSBC moved its headquarters to London in 1993, Hong Kong remains the bank’s largest market and it has invested billions into China through its presence there.
Standard Chartered followed suit, saying it hopes the new security law can help “maintain the long-term stability of Hong Kong”.