HSBC, the large U.K.-based bank, has signaled its support for China’s controversial national security law aimed at expanding Beijing’s control over Hong Kong.
Peter Wong, chief executive for the global bank’s Asia-Pacific region, signed a petition in favor of the law, and the bank shared photos of the moment in a social media post in China.
“HSBC respects and supports any laws that stabilize the social order in Hong Kong and revitalize economic prosperity and development in Hong Kong,” the bank said in a statement accompanying the post.
China approved the new national security laws last month. Pro-Democracy activists and other critics say the laws would effectively end the “one country, two systems” policy that has allowed Hong Kong its political freedoms and civil liberties despite still being technically governed by China.
China claims that the laws, which have not yet been implemented, are necessary to crack down on separatism, subversion, terrorism, and foreign intervention in Hong Kong in the wake of the pro-democracy protests against Beijing. The measure would also allow China’s state security agencies to operate in the territory, although details of the legislation have not yet been released.
“We respect and support laws and regulations that will enable Hong Kong to recover and rebuild the economy and, at the same time, maintain the principle of ‘one country two systems,’” an HSBC spokeswoman in London told the Wall Street Journal about the bank’s support for the legislation.
Wong also chairs the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce and argued that the laws would be a boon for Hong Kong’s economy.
“With the backing of the rapid-developing mainland market, Hong Kong’s economy will definitely walk out of the clouds and get back to the development path,” Wong told the Chinese state-controlled Xinhua News Agency.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress last month that the city of Hong Kong no longer “maintains a high degree of autonomy from China,” an appraisal that indicates the U.S. may end its special trading relationship with the financial hub.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that the United Kingdom is ready to offer refuge and a path to citizenship to nearly three million Hong Kong citizens should China follow through on implementing the national security laws. Johnson said the laws violate the terms of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the agreement the U.K. reached with China after Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.