My Take

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong must realise that banks have rules

His claims that HSBC declined his application to set up an account because of political considerations ring hollow

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 1:12am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:07pm

It’s a good thing I am not a news editor. I wouldn’t last a day in today’s newsroom. I can’t, for example, understand why political activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung’s inability to open an account with HSBC was news, when it was reported in practically all the major local media outlets.

Some pan-democrat lawmakers even demanded answers from Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung. I could have thought of more worthwhile things to ask in the legislature.

When I first became a reporter 20 years ago, the Bank of China wouldn’t let me open a current account because, a branch manager told me, I earned too little to qualify to have my own cheque book.

Later, they refused me a mortgage because they didn’t think I was “financially viable”. I could have claimed political persecution because of my job. By the way, I was actually holding down a steady job with a stable, if very low, income.

So here’s young Joshua, formerly of the student activist group Scholarism, screaming bloody murder because HSBC turned down his application to open an account.

But even according to Wong, HSBC didn’t simply say no. It’s just that the bank asked for additional information, which he refused to supply.

Worse, he wasn’t entirely forthcoming about his purpose of opening a joint savings account with a fellow activist when asked by the bank.

He also tried to open a current account but was turned down.

“We were asked about the purpose of the joint account and we said it was for personal savings,” Wong said.

But when interviewed by reporters, he admitted they needed the accounts to handle donations and other business dealings for a new political party they were setting up.

“It seems the fuss is because I am a politically sensitive person,” Wong said.

“Political censorship seems to have been involved in [HSBC’s] business considerations.”

So here’s a young guy with only a secondary school education, has never earned a cent in his life or never held down a steady job. When asked for more personal details, he declined to comply out of what he called “privacy concerns”.

Is it any wonder that HSBC, or any bank, would refuse to do business with such a person?