This is an open letter to Mr Noel Quinn, Group Chief Executive of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). The picture above is Mr Peter Wong, HSBC’s Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive.
Dear Mr Quinn
It looks almost certain that the Communist Party of China will enact a law which would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong’s citizens. The likelihood is that the new law would make criminal any act of secession (breaking away from China); subversion (undermining the power or authority of China’s central government); terrorism (using violence or intimidation against people) and any activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong. China could also set up its own security institutions in Hong Kong. The law would have the effect of unilaterally imposing Chinese national security laws on Hong Kong, overriding the territory’s partial autonomy.
If passed into law, the legislation would undermine China’s system of self-governance, known as ‘one country, two systems’ under which Beijing had pledged to keep Hong Kong’s ‘capitalist system and way of life’ unchanged for 50 years after the UK returned the city to Chinese rule in 1997. The new law will almost certainly undermine international business confidence in the city and curtail individual freedoms.
I find it strange, therefore, that HSBC’s Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Wong, has signed a petition in favour of the new legislation. I support the British Member of Parliament Mr Tom Tugendhat’s questions posted on Twitter recently asking, ‘why is HSBC choosing to back an authoritarian state’s repression of liberties and undermining the rule of law? Where does this fit in HSBC’s definition of corporate social responsibility?’
I’ve been on the receiving end of people seeking to repress my own freedom of speech; it’s a dreadful experience. Whilst my own experience was as nothing compared to what China intends to impose on the citizens of Hong Kong, it upsets me nonetheless to think that a very senior HSBC executive would go out of his way to support the suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong.
I have had all of my business and personal banking arrangements with HSBC’s First Direct arm for over 10 years. This morning, I switched all of my accounts to a British financial institution, Nationwide Building Society. I hope that any other First Direct customers who feel as strongly about protecting freedom and democracy as I do will also consider switching their custom away from HSBC.
I’ve sent this letter in hard copy direct to Mr Quinn at his London office address. I take the view that it’s all very well learning about these sorts of matters in the news, cussing the way the world’s heading, but then not looking for ways to make an impact, however small. Hence my letter and my decision to take my HSBC custom elsewhere. Now, on with the day’s tasks and wishing all the best to the people of Hong Kong. Of the Hong Kong Chinese whom I’ve met over the years, I’ve always found them charming, intelligent and polite human beings.
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See you down the pub … eventually.