“If companies make political statements, they must accept the corporate responsibilities that follow,” Cumming said.
Even before Wong’s photo was published, HSBC faced a difficult situation. Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying had previously named the bank for his silence on the law, urging HSBC to express its support.
Even Pompeo noted that HSBC is still facing a frosty reception in China.
“This display of allegiance seems to have earned a little respect from HSBC in Beijing, which continues to use the bank’s business in China as a political lever,” he said in a statement, calling HSBC’s “Communist Party of China” a cautious tale. “
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday that everyone has “the right to make independent, merit-based decisions.”
“For some in the United States, the world may be in only two categories – either they are with the United States and have to attack China, or they have been forced by China,” Hua Chuning said in response to a question about Pompeo’s statement. “These views are narrow-minded and funny.”
The attacks are a major headache for HSBC, which began its life more than 150 years ago as a banking corporation in Hong Kong and Shanghai to finance 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 withdrew enough money to erase losses in the UK and maintain the company’s profits.
HSBC declined to comment. Shares of the bank, registered in Hong Kong, closed 1.5% on Wednesday.
As a British business, the bank faces the risk of collateral damage between the United Kingdom and China, said Willie Lam, an assistant professor at the Center for Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“It’s not surprising that the Chinese had to establish themselves on HSBC as … a target,” Lam said.
Meanwhile, Washington is “trying to build a coalition” of allies against Beijing, according to Lam. He said Pompeo’s decision to call HSBC specifically reflected “escalating” tensions between the United States and China.
– Eoin McSweeney, Isaac Yee and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.