“If companies make political statements, they have to accept the corporate responsibilities that follow,” Cumming said.
Even before the publication of Wong’s photo, HSBC faced a difficult situation. Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-Ying had earlier singled out silence about the law to the bank, demanding that HSBC express support.
Even Pompeo noted that HSBC is still facing a cold reception in China.
“This act of loyalty seems to have earned HSBC little respect in Beijing, which continues to use the bank’s business in China as a political influence,” he said in a statement, calling the “Communist Party of China” HSBC a cautious story.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that everyone has “the right to make independent decisions based on merit.”
“For some in the US, perhaps the world lies in only two categories – either they are with the US and should attack China, or China has forced them,” Hua Chunying said in response to a question about Pompeo’s statement. “Those looks are narrow and funny.”
The attacks are a major headache for HSBC, which began life more than 150 years ago as Hong Kong and the Shanghai Banking Corporation with the goal of financing trade between Asia and Europe. The bank still has a large business presence in the region: Last year, its subsidiaries in Hong Kong and China raised enough money to eliminate losses in the UK and leave the company profitable.
HSBC declined to comment. Bank shares in Hong Kong closed 1.5% on Wednesday.
As a British business, the bank faces the risk of becoming collateral damage between the UK and China, said Willy Lam, an assistant professor at the Center for Chinese Research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“It’s not surprising that the Chinese were supposed to settle on HSBC as … a target,” Lam said.
Meanwhile, Washington, according to Lam, is “trying to build a coalition” of allies against Beijing. He said Pompeo’s decision to invite HSBC specifically reflects “worsened” tensions between the United States and China.
– Eoin McSweeney, Isaac Yee and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.
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