Mike Pompeo renews assault on HSBC as financial institution walks line between US and China


US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has stepped up his assault on HSBC, accusing the UK lender of caving to Chinese language strain to dam pro-democracy Hong Kong media executives from accessing their cash whereas sustaining accounts for Chinese language officers beneath US sanctions.

America’s prime diplomat mentioned on Wednesday he was “dismayed” that the Chinese language Communist occasion’s “coercive bullying techniques in opposition to our mates in the UK continues”.

He mentioned “free nations should make sure that company pursuits usually are not suborned by the CCP to help its political repression”.

The Trump administration is waging an escalating marketing campaign in opposition to China, which the US has censured over commerce, coronavirus and spying claims amid renewed tensions within the South China Sea. 

Mr Pompeo has taken a tough line on China’s imposition of a draconian safety legislation on Hong Kong and has pushed the UK, the territory’s former colonial energy, to reply with a more durable stance in opposition to Beijing.

Washington imposed sanctions this month on 11 Chinese language and Hong Kong officers together with Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief government, accusing them of being occasion to repression within the monetary hub. 

The most recent public assault on HSBC piles strain on the sprawling 155-year-old financial institution, which is strolling an more and more perilous geopolitical tightrope between China and the west.

Regardless of being headquartered in London and reliant on US {dollars} to fund world commerce, HSBC makes greater than 90 per cent of its revenue in Asia, notably its birthplace of Hong Kong. The financial institution has bold plans to take a position lots of of billions of {dollars} in mainland China whereas shrinking its much less worthwhile operations within the US and Europe.

Citing stories that HSBC prevented executives at pro-democracy writer Subsequent Media from accessing their cash, Mr Pompeo mentioned: “HSBC maintains accounts for people sanctioned for denying Hong Kongers’ freedom, whereas shutting accounts for these looking for freedom.”

Hong Kong police this month detained Jimmy Lai, the 72-year-old tycoon behind the Subsequent Digital media empire, together with a number of different executives together with members of his household.

Mr Pompeo didn’t establish the people dealing with sanctions or the supply of the stories about Subsequent Media. HSBC declined to remark. The US state division didn’t instantly reply to a request for clarification.

The secretary of state made comparable accusations in opposition to HSBC in June, accusing it of “kowtowing” to Beijing after the financial institution’s prime Asia government, Peter Wong, publicly expressed assist for the nationwide safety legislation. Mr Pompeo referred to as on Britain and its establishments to decide on a facet amid escalating tensions between western nations and China.

HSBC’s assist of the safety legislation, which got here into drive on June 30, has additionally been strongly criticised by the British political institution, which is taking a more durable line after years of courting Beijing.

Whereas the UK agreed in January to permit Chinese language telecoms gear maker Huawei a job in delivering 5G cellular networks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson subsequently reversed the choice and has banned Huawei from the UK’s 5G market.

The UK’s overseas and commonwealth workplace mentioned it was in “shut contact with a variety of companies in Hong Kong and are working with them on the influence of the nationwide safety laws and associated developments” following the US announcement.

HSBC can be caught up in a diplomatic spat over the arrest of Huawei’s chief monetary officer, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada in 2018. Beijing has blamed the lender for offering info to US prosecutors that led to Ms Meng’s arrest, whereas state-run newspapers have branded it “unethical” and an “unreliable entity”.

On Wednesday Mr Pompeo additionally mentioned the US would deny visas to Chinese language people related to militarising islands within the South China Sea or serving to forestall China’s neighbours accessing their offshore sources.

He accused Beijing of “trampling on the sovereign rights of its neighbours” and mentioned it should not be allowed to make use of Chinese language state-owned enterprises “as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda”.

The US added 24 Chinese language SOEs to a sanctions record. 

Mr Pompeo mentioned Chinese language SOEs had since 2013 dredged and reclaimed greater than 3,000 acres of land within the South China Sea that was topic to dispute. Beijing has denied militarising the islands, which it claims as sovereign territory.

Further reporting by Laura Hughes in London


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