Peter Wong, a senior executive with HSBC, has come out in support of China’s national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, according to comments posted on the bank’s official WeChat account on Wednesday.
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s recent extradition case ruling has set off a fresh round of criticism against HSBC. Even in financial circles, the bank has been censured for its role in Meng’s arrest in Canada.
Some have urged the UK-based banking giant to express its position on US-China tensions and the national security law, otherwise they would boycott it.
Wong’s support for the national security law should be welcomed, but HSBC’s silence on the issue in the past week is worth noting. In this sense, Wong’s support comes late. It seems it’s a very difficult decision for the bank to express its support for the national security law.
There is a reason to suspect that Wong’s support for the national security law was made because of public pressure. The UK-based bank needs to show greater sincerity to express its position on US-China tension and the national security law.
It’s the bank that has put itself in this embarrassing situation. There have been many online discussions about HSBC’s alleged involvement in the US crackdown on Huawei, which is a political issue. That is why the public urged HSBC to speak out on the national security law and US-China tensions.
It is dangerous for a financial institution to take a stance and play a role in political games, and the bank is now seen by some in financial circles as being unprofessional and untrustworthy.
HSBC’s alleged involvement in Meng’s case also leaves a permanent stain on its record.
There is no denying HSBC has played an important role in Hong Kong’s financial system. It is one of three commercial banks licensed to issue Hong Kong dollar banknotes. Yet it would be wrong of anyone to assume its special status in Hong Kong could be used as a bargaining chip in its alleged involvement in political affairs.
During the first quarter of 2020, 88 percent of HSBC’s profits were contributed by its Hong Kong business, according to media reports. It is Hong Kong that is indispensable to HSBC, but the bank is not too big to fail within Chinese boundaries.
Its current awkward position shows that, as a financial institution, it has neither the ability nor the experience to get involved in political affairs. Due to its complicated and important links to Hong Kong’s financial system, HSBC is now in a sensitive position when it comes to questions like whether or not there will be a US-China financial war over Hong Kong and what measures the US will take against the city.
Any move by the bank to inject itself into political affairs could now easily be over-interpreted by netizens. HSBC needs to be fully aware of the political sensitivity of its position against the current backdrop and pull itself out of political affairs as soon as possible.
Wong’s support is not enough to resolve all the problems faced by HSBC and we still need to watch HSBC’s moves in the future related to issues such as Huawei. There is a bottom line that HSBC can’t cross, otherwise the bank could lose the China market.