Adviser says foreign banks shedding links with HK officials

Local | 28 Jul 2020 12:15 pm

The convener of the Executive Council, Bernard Chan, has told the Financial Times newspaper that an American bank recently informed him it was closing his account, adding other senior officials were also facing similar issues as tensions mount between China and the US after Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong, RTHK reports

He didn't name the bank.

Chan said his account with the US bank was closed just before the national security law was announced, adding that the problem was becoming more common.

He told the Times that  even HSBC wouldn't want anything to do with him, fearing the US could retaliate by slapping sanctions on officials involved in implementing the law.

The Trump administration has warned that banks doing business with sanctioned officials risk being locked out of the US financial system.

The executive councillor said he wasn't surprised that banks would be combing their customer lists not only for officials but also for pro-democracy activists, because "It’s too much hassle for them".

But Chan also told the London-based newspaper that while he could imagine why banks were “freaking out”, they should not expect “black and white” answers from the government on how to comply with the new laws, as that was a matter for the justice department and the courts.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said HSBC recently questioned him about royalty income from the sales of a book that he was receiving in a personal account held with the bank. The account was still open, he said.

HSBC, StanChart and Citibank declined to comment, said the Times.

Standard Chartered and HSBC have attracted flak after the two banks publicly supported the national security law before its details were released.

Reuters had reported earlier that bankers like Credit Suisse, Julius Baer and UBS, among others, are broadening scrutiny under their programmes that screen clients for political and government ties and subjecting them to additional diligence requirements.

The checks at some wealth managers have involved combing through comments made by clients and their associates in public and in media, and social media posts in the recent past, these people said.

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