Hong Kong Exile Asks Why HSBC Is Still Freezing His Accounts

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A former Hong Kong lawmaker who fled abroad is questioning why HSBC Holdings Plc continues to freeze his bank accounts in a case that continues to embroil the London-based lender in the contentious politics of the former British colony.

Ted Hui, a former pro-democracy lawmaker who’s now in Australia, demanded accountability from HSBC in a Facebook post on Tuesday. Hui has previously blasted HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn after the banker reached out to the activist to explain that the lender had to comply with a police request to freeze the accounts.

“Six months has passed since HSBC unreasonably froze my accounts and my family’s last year,” Hui wrote. “Since then, the Hong Kong Police never disclosed any information regarding my case: No evidence, no arrest, no prosecution, no wanted list, no further legal proceedings.”

The Hong Kong police and HSBC didn’t immediately respond to requests for a comment about Hui, who was previously arrested in connection with a protest in the legislative chamber. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has criticized what it described as an action by an unidentified fugitive to escape prosecution after Hui fled first to Europe and then to Australia.

The case illustrates the pitfalls for businesses trying to operate in Hong Kong after China imposed a sweeping -- but vaguely worded -- national security law on the territory in the wake of protests in 2019. Local authorities used the legislation this month to arrest top editors at the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper belonging to now-jailed activist and tycoon Jimmy Lai. The company ceased publication after it said officials used the law to block access to its bank accounts.

HSBC, which counts Hong Kong as its biggest market, has come under fire from western politicians over freezing Hui’s accounts. In January, Quinn went before the U.K. parliament’s foreign affairs committee to answer for the bank’s actions.

In June last year, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the bank for assisting the Chinese Communist Party’s “coercive bully tactics” when former top executive in Asia, Peter Wong, signed a petition backing the security law.

In his post, Hui said he received legal advice suggesting that a police order asking a bank to freeze accounts should be rendered invalid after six months. He questioned whether it was “purely political persecution on a dissident by mean of freezing assets?”

“The answer is crystal clear,” he wrote.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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