HSBC, Standard Chartered, Bank of East Asia speak up against violence, call for peace as Hong Kong’s protests continue
- HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia took out full-page and quarter-page advertisements in several of Hong Kong’s Chinese-language newspapers to call for a return to peace and public order
HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia have spoken up against the violence that has taken over 11 weeks of popular opposition to a controversial extradition bill, joining a chorus of Hong Kong’s biggest companies to call for calm amid the worst political crisis in the city’s history.
The three banks – two of which are among the city’s three currency issuers – took out advertisements in several Chinese-language broadsheet newspapers in Hong Kong to call for calm and a return to order.
HSBC’s full-page advertisements appeared in five newspapers while Standard Chartered took out full pages in three, including Singtao Daily. Bank of East Asia took out quarter-page statements in three newspapers, including the Ta Kung Pao and Wen Wei Po.
What began as a peaceful march on June 9 involving an estimated 1 million people against a controversial extradition bill has deteriorated into frequent clashes between riot police and protesters over nearly three months.
Amid the unprecedented civic unrest, Hong Kong’s banks had been trying to wait out the political storm.
China Citic Bank, a unit of mainland China’s largest conglomerate, closed its branches in Admiralty whenever protesters gathered in the business district to besiege the local legislature, and also in Yuen Long, the scene of some of the most violent clashes between protesters and local residents.
“As a company rooted in Hong Kong, [HSBC is] very concerned about the recent social events and strongly condemn any violence and actions that disrupt social order,” said the bank in full-page advertisements in Hong Kong Economic Times, Hong Kong Economic Journal, Wen Wei Po, Ta Kung Pao and Singtao Daily.
Rule of law is indispensable for Hong Kong, said HSBC, founded in the city in 1865, and which still earns half of its global revenue in Asia, including Hong Kong and mainland China.
Standard Chartered had a similar stance, opposing the use of violence and calling for a return to the rule of law to safeguard Hong Kong’s role as a financial centre. Bank of China (Hong Kong), the third of the currency issuers, advertised in two Chinese newspapers in early August.
Their statements underscore how global companies have to walk a fine line between being good corporate citizens and reining in the political viewpoints of the dissenters within their workforce.
“The bank has always respected our employees have their own personal views on political and social matters,” HSBC said in an email at the time, when protests remained peaceful.
HSBC’s dilemma is shared by many Hong Kong-based companies, whose positions are made more precarious by China’s market of 1.4 billion consumers.