Hong Kong Ex-Lawmaker Rejects HSBC Account Freeze Explanation

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Former Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui stepped up his criticism of HSBC Holdings Plc as Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn reached out to him personally to explain why the lender froze his accounts after he fled the city for self-exile in the U.K.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, which included a photo of part of the letter he received from Quinn, Hui said that HSBC has “failed to provide the legal basis” for freezing his accounts and those of his family members and didn’t explain why his family was also “collectively punished.”

Hui, a pro-democracy advocate, said that Quinn wrote in the personal email that the bank had no choice in blocking his accounts after a demand from the police. An HSBC spokeswoman declined to comment on specific accounts.

Members of the U.K. parliament need to question the bank’s actions and there should be “corresponding international sanctions to be imposed upon HSBC,” Hui said.

Hong Kong Ex-Lawmaker Rejects HSBC Account Freeze Explanation

The bank’s Hong Kong-listed shares fell as much as 3.1% on Monday. HSBC’s move to freeze Hui’s account as well as that of a church last year prompted anger and accusations that the closures were acts of political retaliation.

The London-based bank has been walking a tightrope as it struggles to avoid getting caught in the complicated geopolitics of the former British colony, where pro-democracy politicians have been disqualified, charged, arrested and fled into exile amid a China-backed crackdown.

HSBC has been reprimanded in Washington and London over support for Beijing’s tough security law in Hong Kong, the lender’s biggest market.

“HSBC is in a difficult position,” said John Burns, honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong, specializing in politics. “It’s a foreign bank but has a lot of business here and on the mainland, and also comes under the heavy hand of Boris Johnson and Pompeo.”

The Hong Kong police previously said that the move to block Hui’s accounts was based on a probe into his crowd-funding efforts. Hui was among those arrested in connection with a disruptive protest in the legislative chamber in May. He was out on bail when he fled to the U.K. last year.

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