British Lawmaker Tells HSBC That China Support Causes Alarm

(Bloomberg) -- A British lawmaker wrote to HSBC Holdings Plc’s chief executive officer, saying the global lender’s decision to back Beijing’s proposed security law for Hong Kong is causing alarm.

Alistair Carmichael, chairman of the U.K. parliamentary group on Hong Kong, referred to the petition signed by the London-based bank’s top executive in Asia, Peter Wong, in support of a move that critics say will diminish the city’s freedom and autonomy. The British government is opposing the proposed law, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he will give as many as three million residents of his nation’s former colony the chance to seek refuge in the U.K. if China presses ahead.

British Lawmaker Tells HSBC That China Support Causes Alarm

“You will not be surprised to learn that it has caused significant concern in the House of Commons, that a senior official of your bank should have taken a stance that would potentially contribute to a more unstable business environment,” he told HSBC CEO Noel Quinn in the letter, which was seen by Bloomberg News.

A spokeswoman for HSBC in London declined to comment on the letter, which was sent to Quinn on Wednesday.

“Actions such as those threatened by Beijing risk undermining that system, to the detriment of all,” Carmichael wrote. “It would concern many of us if HSBC were now to align itself with those seeking to destabilize the rules-based order.”

British Lawmaker Tells HSBC That China Support Causes Alarm

HSBC is not the first firm to back Beijing, but is in a delicate position. Most of its earnings are generated in Asia but its headquarters are in London. That’s also the case for Standard Chartered Plc, which also endorsed the proposal that critics say will violate the “one country, two systems” principle Britain and China agreed to when the territory was handed over in 1997.

Carmichael, a member of the Liberal Democrats, was not the only British politician to question the banks’ stance. In a post on his Twitter account, Tom Tugendhat, a member of parliament for the U.K.’s ruling Conservative Party, wrote: “I wonder why @HSBC and @StanChart are choosing to back an authoritarian state’s repression of liberties and undermining the rule of law? Where does this fit in their definition of corporate social responsibility?”

Earlier Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed a controversial law banning residents from disrespecting China’s national anthem, a bill that had sparked physical confrontations between rival lawmakers.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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