UK banking giants back China's Hong Kong security law


Hong Kong (AFP)

British banking giants HSBC and Standard Chartered on Thursday backed China's contentious security law proposal for Hong Kong, which critics fear will be used to stamp out dissent in the city.

Beijing announced plans last month to bypass Hong Kong's legislature and impose the law, following seven straight months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests last year.

China says the law is needed to tackle "terrorism" and "separatism" in a restless city it now regards as a direct national security threat.

Opponents fear it will be used to stifle local opposition to Communist Party rule, despite the promise of limited freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after the city's 1997 handover from Britain.

But several conglomerates with mainland business interests have in recent days issued statements supporting the bill, including the Asia-focused banking giants.

"HSBC reiterates that we respect and support laws that will stabilise Hong Kong's social order and revitalise the economy," HSBC said in a post on Chinese social media WeChat.

The statement accompanied a picture of the bank's top Asia executive, Peter Wong, signing a petition in support of the law on Wednesday.

In an interview with China's state media agency Xinhua, Wong said he hoped the law would bring "long-term stability and prosperity" to Hong Kong.

His comments came after the city's pro-Beijing former leader Leung Chun-ying publicly criticised the British bank for not publicly supporting the law while profiting from its Chinese business interests.

London-based Standard Chartered also lined up to support the laws, saying they hoped details of its provisions would "enable Hong Kong to maintain economic and social stability".

And British multinational Jardine Matheson took out a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper on Wednesday to pledge its support for the bill.

The firms' support of the law is at odds with the British government, which says the bill breached the agreement signed with China to govern the territory after the 1997 handover.

British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Tuesday he had spoken to allies including the United States and Australia about potentially opening their doors to Hong Kongers seeking to leave the city if the law is passed.