(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong opposition politicians of The League of Social Democrats staged a rally outside of HSBC Holdings Plc to protest a decision by the bank to close accounts of the group and demand an explanation from the lender.
A group of five activists gathered in front of one of the iconic lion statues that stand guard at HSBC’s main offices in the city’s Central business district. They spoke to an assembled press, with police closely watching, and held signs saying the bank cared only about making money and was abetting the tyrant.
“Unfortunately, all three accounts in HSBC is our only accounts in Hong Kong,” said Dickson Chau, external vice chairman of the League of Social Democrats. “We are no longer able to receive donations or make payments in a digital way. We can only do everything in cash now.”
He said the bank didn’t provide a reason for the closing, but that they were allowed to withdraw the money.
HSBC said in a statement that the closing was part of a regular review of account activities and due diligence requirements.
“Based on these reviews, HSBC may decide that we will no longer be able to maintain the banking relationships with certain customers,” a spokesperson said.
HSBC, which is Hong Kong’s biggest bank, has had to walk a tightrope after a China-imposed crackdown on civil liberties following massive pro-democracy protests that rocked the financial hub in 2019. The lender was slammed by activists in 2020 for freezing the accounts of a former pro-democracy lawmaker and a local church that helped protesters. It also saw some of its branches attacked after it closed an account linked to the pro-democracy movement.
HSBC was also rebuked by British and U.S. politicians after the bank’s Asia chief Peter Wong signed a petition in support of the China-drafted National Security Law.
Hong Kong police detained more than 20 people on Sunday, the 34th anniversary of the crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, as authorities took a forceful approach to prevent any public commemoration of the deadly event.
Chan Po-ying, chairperson of the League of Social Democrats, was among those detained. Chan took over in 2021 after several core party members were jailed or awaiting trial — including her husband, veteran activist Leung “Long Hair” Kwok-hung.
Chau said the league hasn’t tried to open accounts with other banks in Hong Kong but he thinks it’s “not possible” to do so under the League of Social Democrats.
“Such irresponsible behaviour of HSBC is not only disrupting the daily operation of our organization but also jeopardizing the reputation of Hong Kong as a free trade harbor and also the international finance city,” said Chau.
--With assistance from Olivia Tam.
(Adds details in last two pargraphs)
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