HSBC has once again drawn criticism from the United States for the way it is treating customers linked to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. US Secretary of State Mike Pompe once again targeted HSBC, saying that China was "bullying" the United Kingdom and using the bank as part of its political tactics.
Pompeo's comments come after some Hong-Kong based executives at Next Media were unable to access their HSBC accounts. Citing these reports, he said the bank was "maintaining accounts for individuals who have been sanctioned for denying freedom for Hong Kongers, while shutting accounts for those seeking freedom." He had earlier also criticized the British bank for supporting China's move to impose new security legislation in Hong Kong.
Pompeo has once again criticized HSBC bank for acting on behalf of the Chinese Community Party and supporting the new security law despite operating in an independent nation. "Free nations must ensure that corporate interests are not suborned by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to aid its political repression," Pompeo said in a statement.
Next Media is the changed name of Next Digital, which is the publisher of the newspaper Apple Daily. The newspaper is part-owned by democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai who has been quite vehemently opposing the new security law.
As a result, Lai was arrested on August 10 under Hong Kong's new security law. According to a Reuters report, HSBC since then has frozen Lai's personal and private business accounts, as well as the personal and credit card accounts of senior executive Mark Simon. However, HSBC is still deducting loan and credit card payments from the accounts despite the block.
HSBC in the Line of Fire
HSBC, in recent times, has been facing backlash from both the United States and also the UK for supporting China's move to impose new security legislation in Hong Kong. The Trump administration has repeatedly attacked Beijing for what it says is an attempt to end Hong Kong's autonomy. US-China ties have deteriorated rapidly since the start of the year over this issue followed by the coronavirus outbreak.
HSBC, which is UK-based but was formed in Hong Kong in 1865, has been trying to balance its need to maintain access to the Chinese market with appeasing lawmakers in the United States and Britain who have been criticizing China's handling of the democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Pompeo had earlier said that the Chinese Communist Party's "browbeating" of HSBC "should serve as a cautionary tale". However, HSBC, in a bid to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of the security law, has also been playing ally to Beijing's policies in Hong Kong.