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.

Yours sincerely


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.

To stimulate debate, please share this post on social media using one or more of the buttons below. Tell people you share my views; or tell people I’m talking cobblers; I don’t mind either way. I just want us all to use peaceful means to effect change. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.

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See you down the pub … eventually.


  1. Slightly off topic, perhaps, but I wonder whether these moves are aimed, not just at HK, but at reinforcing the CCP’s position in China itself?

    Well before the coronavirus crisis it seemed clear that the Chinese economy was in big trouble. Doubling GDP between 2008 and 2018 was accomplished through a near-quadrupling of debt.

    By 2018-19, defaults were starting to spike, and extending to SOEs, hitherto widely regarded as immune. Sales of everything from cars and smartphones to chips and components were tumbling, and P2P lending platforms seemed to be collapsing, leaving savers badly burned.

    The CCP’s ‘grand bargain’ with citizens requires delivering prosperity in exchange for accepting limitations on civil rights. In this context, ‘prosperity’ means full employment. Mass urban unemployment is Beijing’s worst nightmare.

    Using debt to keep non-viable businesses going, and using still more debt to keep creating ever more excess capacity, provides jobs, but can’t go on indefinitely.

    Is this the moment when things start to unravel?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · ·

      Good to hear from you Tim. I was getting anxious (seriously) that we’d lost touch.

      I take your point about the possibility that China’s actions are aimed more at its own population than at the Hong Kong Chinese per se. In this context, I thought Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s recent DT article, ‘China’s not strong enough …’ was interesting.

      The fear – for me – is the extent to which our own politicians are proving themselves to be a one-trick pony. Since the beginning of the year they’ve been groupthink-obsessed with a novel, moderately lethal disease to the exclusion of virtually any other political imperative. Most days I gasp at the latest stream of still panic-stricken ‘advice’ for us all to keep hiding under the bedclothes (or behind futile face coverings) pending what exactly?

      On your substantial point though, one does wonder at the big screen scene here; the geopolitical portents. In this respect, I would encourage readers of this blog to hop over to your own blog (Surplus Energy Economics) and start by reading your most recent post: ‘Orchestra, Lights, Beginners!’

      Then, pop over to Gail Tverberg’s place and have a look at her most recent post: ‘Increased violence …’

      On the SEEDs front, please keep us posted on your reading of the unfolding economic data in the coming weeks and months.

      Drop me an email when you get a minute …



      1. Thanks M. I should perhaps have mentioned Taiwan in my comment.

        I’m fine, but busy trying to use SEEDS to model what things might look like post-virus. Some of the stats will be in the next blog post. There’s some fascinating stuff emerging.

        Bottom line, though, is that things aren’t going to ‘recover’ in the ways that governments and businesses assume they will.

        People’s prosperity will be sharply lower – debts higher, savings depleted, incomes impaired and, in due course, house prices lower. Health worries might or might not frighten consumers into caution, but their financial circumstances – and the blow to their sense of financial security – most certainly will.

        Demands, politically, are likely to include ‘spend more on the NHS’, ‘reduce my taxes’ and ‘make the rich and big business pay more’.

        Consumer spending on non-essentials will plunge, after (perhaps) a brief rally on ‘post-Wuhan euphoria’. This might be why some “customer-facing” businesses are making long-term cuts to capacity, output and staff.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Robert Graham · ·

          Surely, with fewer people employed (out of necessity) peoples’ prosperity will be unimpaired. Getting back to the original question, to where should I move my HSBC investment, without moving it to another UK bank?

          Liked by 1 person

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