HSBC blasted by Hong Kong protest leader: Bank urged to apologise after boss praised Chinese regime
A leader of Hong Kong’s democracy protests has slammed the HSBC bank for supporting China’s communist regime.
Joshua Wong, a 22-year-old activist who has twice been jailed for his work, spoke out after HSBC boss John Flint said the Chinese economic system ‘gives Western liberal democracies pause for thought, because here is a deeply socialist system that’s served its people really well’.
He accused HSBC of failing to understand what is really going on in China – and urged it to apologise.
Fury: Joshua Wong told the Mail the lender must do more to support democracy
Flint’s comments have been heavily criticised, especially as China is coming under increasing scrutiny for holding millions of its citizens – mostly of the Uighur ethnic minority – in secretive ‘re-education camps’.
Wong, who was jailed for taking part in pro-democracy campaigns, said: ‘This just shows that he does not fully understand what’s going on in Hong Kong, or in China, how people face interference, suppression, the re-education camps.
‘Economic freedom in Hong Kong is still important and beneficial for global financial market development.
‘If HSBC keeps silent on economic freedom being eroded by Beijing, it will just cause more damage.’
The activist is at the heart of protests which have rocked Hong Kong for weeks, amid concern that its citizens’ freedom is at risk from interference on the Chinese mainland.
Campaigners are concerned about an extradition bill which could make it easier for dissidents to be carried off to China to face trial.
It has led to tense stand-offs with the authorities in the streets, which have not stopped even though the city’s Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam has abandoned the bill.
Activists fear China’s oppressive leadership will continue ratcheting up control over the city, violating an agreement which is meant to allow it to retain freedom until 2047.
Wong urged HSBC to speak out, saying that the bill threatens the economic success of the city, where the bank has had a presence for more than 150 years.
He said: ‘The extradition bill would have allowed Chinese authorities to confiscate the property of people living in Hong Kong. So it threatened Hong Kong’s economic freedom. Flint must make a public apology.’
Flint’s support of China comes after a controversial ‘We are not an island’ campaign in Britain this year by HSBC, which is based in London but makes more than half of its income from Asia.
The billboards, referring to elements of British life, were designed to present it as open and connected to the rest of the world.
But Flint’s comments have raised questions as to the kinds of relationships which HSBC would like to see Britain forge when it leaves the European Union.
Dr John Hemmings, director of the Asia Studies Centre at foreign policy think tank the Henry Jackson Society, said: ‘China has put a million Uighurs in camps and is building an Orwellian surveillance society.
‘Anyone who thinks a million people in camps are being served well needs to reflect on their moral compass.’
Flint, 51, was paid £4.6million last year. HSBC has been funnelling increasing amounts of money into China – especially the Pearl River Delta, a megacity in China’s Guangdong region.
It appointed two senior bankers to be co-chief executives of Guangdong province at the end of last year, and said it planned to generate around £400million from Pearl River Delta by next year.
The lender declined to comment yesterday.