Britain's foreign secretary criticizes HSBC for Hong Kong stance

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Britain's foreign secretary criticizes HSBC for Hong Kong stance

The UK's foreign secretary, Dominc Raab, has criticised HSBC for the Asia-focused bank having backed China's controversial security law for Hong Kong.

Speaking in London yesterday at a press conference, the minister replied to a Reuters journalist: "In relation to HSBC, ultimately businesses will make their own judgement calls. But let me just put it this way, we will not sacrifice the people of Hong Kong over the altar of banker bonuses."

Last week HSBC, along with Asian rival Standard Chartered, voiced its implicit support for the proposed law, which would make it an offence to "insult" the Chinese national anthem. Many in Hong Kong fear the new legislation would in effect side-step the territory's government and basic law.

We will not sacrifice the people of Hong Kong over the altar of banker bonuses."

In a post on Chinese social media giant WeChat, HSBC said: "We reiterate that we respect and support laws and regulations that will enable Hong Kong to recover and rebuild the economy and, at the same time, maintain the principle of one country, two systems."

Despite the criticism from several governments in the West, other commentators maintain that HSBC has little choice but to lend its support to Beijing, given the bank's extensive interests in China. 

Yet its move complicates things for the UK-based bank, which makes up to 90% of its profits in Hong Kong, where the bank was founded more than 160 years ago. Hitherto HSBC always tried to instil the principle that it was "a guest in every country," remaining apolitical. 

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Christopher Copper-Ind

Christopher Copper-Ind is editor-in-chief of International Investment. Before this, he was editorial director of The Business Year, from 2014 to 2017.