HSBC’s chief government has denied taking a political stance on China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, claiming the financial institution was not able to query police requests when it agreed to freeze accounts of pro-democracy activists.
Questioned by MPs on the overseas affairs committee on Tuesday, Noel Quinn dominated out exiting the Hong Kong market in gentle of Beijing’s controversial new safety legal guidelines, saying it “would solely hurt” native prospects.
In a 90-minute alternate that left many MPs exasperated, the HSBC boss repeatedly refused to touch upon problems with “democracy or political techniques” and stated his predominant motivation was to assist Hong Kong’s financial system and its residents “via the present challenges”.
The London-headquartered financial institution has come beneath hearth not just for backing the safety legislation, however freezing the accounts of pro-democracy protesters – together with veteran activist Ted Hui – who critics declare are the true goal of Beijing’s crackdown. The financial institution has additionally been accused of defending its personal pursuits in Hong Kong, the place it employs about 30,000 of its 235,000 international employees and makes greater than half its earnings.
However Quinn stated the financial institution was not singling out activists, and was merely following police orders as it could in any of its markets, together with the UK. “I can’t cherrypick which legislation to observe,” he stated.
MPs pushed Quinn to justify his choice to assist the safety legislation, and permit his Asia-Pacific chief government, Peter Wong, to signal a petition backing Beijing’s new guidelines. HSBC’s assertion on the time stated it could “respect and assist legal guidelines” that might assist the territory “get well and rebuild.”
Quinn stated on Tuesday that the financial institution had hoped the safety legislation would restore calm in a metropolis that had confronted months of disruption attributable to pro-democracy protests. “We needed to ask 30,000 individuals to make money working from home as a result of they had been afraid to journey on public transport. Buildings had been being firebombed,” he stated.
“We consider that it was applicable to stabilise the safety place in Hong Kong,” Quinn added.
The Labour MP, Chris Bryant, claimed HSBC appeared to “undertake an ethical stance when it fits you, however not when it doesn’t”.
Nevertheless, Quinn defended the financial institution’s choice: “It’s not my place to make an ethical or political judgment on these issues, I’ve to adjust to the legislation.”
He quashed rumours that HSBC could contemplate splitting its Asian and western operations, or pulling out of Hong Kong fully, to keep away from the reputational injury of being related to China’s anti-democratic crackdown.
Quinn stated pulling out of the territory “would solely hurt” prospects. “I’m nowhere close to the purpose at which the challenges Hong Kong faces would even give me any hints or consideration of strolling away from Hong Kong. We’re dedicated to it.”