HSBC Holdings Plc has been accused by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo of aiding the Chinese government’s clampdown on Hong Kong.
Pompeo cited reports that the British bank had stopped executives of Hong Kong-based publisher Next Media from accessing their credit cards and personal bank accounts following the arrest of the company’s founder, Jimmy Lai. In a written statement published Wednesday, Pompeo also said HSBC continued to provide banking services to people sanctioned by the U.S.
“The bank is thus maintaining accounts for individuals who have been sanctioned for denying freedom for Hong Kongers, while shutting accounts for those seeking freedom,” said Pompeo.
The secretary of state repeated criticism of HSBC’s decision in June to allow its most senior banker in Asia, Peter Wong, to sign a petition supporting the new Hong Kong security law that critics say has stifled freedom in the former British colony.
“Free nations must ensure that corporate interests are not suborned by the CCP to aid its political repression,” Pompeo said. He offered support to the British government to counter what he described as the “coercive bullying tactics” of the Chinese authorities.
Lai, among the first pro-democracy activists to be arrested under the new law, was bailed out earlier this month. Shares in Next Media have soared since his detention as supporters rallied behind the businessman and his Apple Daily newspaper.
A spokeswoman for HSBC in London declined to comment.