US lambasts HSBC over controversial Hong Kong law

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday took to task HSBC for backing Beijing’s controversial security law proposal in Hong Kong, warning of businesses’ overreliance on China.

The Asia-focused British banking giant last week posted its support for the law on Chinese social media platform WeChat with a picture of HSBC’s top Asia executive, Peter Wong, signing a petition backing the measure.

“That show of fealty seems to have earned HSBC little respect in Beijing, which continues to use the bank’s business in China as political leverage against London,” Pompeo said in a statement, calling HSBC’s experience “a cautionary tale”.

“Beijing’s aggressive behaviour shows why countries should avoid economic overreliance on China and should guard their critical infrastructure from CCP influence,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Pompeo renewed his call on all countries to shun Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which Washington says will jeopardise personal security if it is allowed to dominate construction of the fifth-generation internet.

China’s rubber-stamp parliament last month moved ahead with a law that will punish subversion and other perceived offences in Hong Kong, a move some activists say will kill the former British colony’s promised freedoms.

Pompeo responded by declaring that Hong Kong will no longer be considered autonomous from mainland China in the eyes of US law.

HSBC offered support for the law after public pressure from a pro-Beijing figure in Hong Kong who pointed to the bank’s reliance on business in China.

HSBC executive Wong, speaking to Chinese state media agency Xinhua, voiced hope that the law would bring “long-term stability and prosperity” to Hong Kong.

Other British companies that have backed the law, bucking London’s official position, include bank Standard Chartered.