BoCom economist points to views as reason for axing

Top News | BLOOMBERG 4 Dec 2019

A Hong Kong economist says he was asked to leave his job at a mainland-owned bank, in the latest example of political tensions erupting in the financial hub after months of protests.

Law Ka-chung left his role as chief economist at Bank of Communications (Hong Kong) in October, with no official announcement.

The analyst said he suspects his views are the reason he was asked to leave after more than 14 years.

The former chief economist in an article in August said the protests would deepen the city's slowdown but argued their impact was limited, contradicting the dire outlook in mainland media.

He said he was asked to leave the bank shortly after he shared with colleagues a link to an outside article critical of China's firewalls and closed system.

"China just needs people to stay low profile and be quiet," Law said yesterday.

"They just want to silence all voices, be it researchers, students or media."

The departure risks stoking speculation that Hong Kong could lose its status as a relatively independent financial center.

Protests have rocked Hong Kong for almost six months, stirring tension across workplaces in the region, with bankers often caught in the midst.

Chinese-owned businesses have been targeted by angry protesters. Locals and those who emigrated from the mainland often clash online and in real life.

Law said he has felt pressure as early as 2014 when the so-called Umbrella movement started.

Friends and other analysts are now indicating that pressure to keep comments guarded is spreading to local and foreign banks as well, he said.

With employees entangled or caught up in the turmoil, banks including HSBC have called for a peaceful resolution. One JPMorgan employee was punched in the face for speaking Putonghua and a Citigroup banker was briefly detained after a scuffle with police. A BNP Paribas executive left his job to focus on his activism for Hong Kong.

Law said BoCom outlined his compensation stretching into next year just two months before he was asked to resign.

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