(Bloomberg) -- A committee of UK lawmakers criticized HSBC Holdings Plc’s treatment of Hong Kong customers who have found it impossible to access their savings after moving to Britain.
The politicians issued a 23-page report Wednesday accusing HSBC of aiding the Chinese government’s efforts to financially isolate Hong Kong citizens who had left the former British colony.
At stake are Mandatory Provident Funds, a compulsory savings program for Hong Kong residents. According to evidence provided to the all-party parliamentary group, HSBC has withheld the release of MPF funds, saying entry documents provided by the British government to Hong Kong immigrants were not sufficient to unlock their money.
The informal cross-party collective of lawmakers said HSBC was “unjustly” denying its customers access to their own savings.
Alistair Carmichael, co-chair of the group and a member of the Liberal Democrat party, said banks were “doing the dirty work of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“This is no longer just about the interpretation of the law, this is about the fundamental rights of an individual to have access to their own property,” Carmichael said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. “This is causing genuine hardship for people who have made the difficult decision to leave Hong Kong.”
HSBC said in a statement that it respected human rights and “like all banks, we have to obey the law, and the instructions of the regulators, in every territory in which we operate.”
The report comes two years after HSBC Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn faced a grilling by UK lawmakers over the bank’s operations in Hong Kong, its biggest generator of revenue and profit. Giving evidence in January 2021, Quinn said HSBC had to comply with the law and it was not for him to make a “moral or political judgment on these matters.”
The UK’s visa program opened the same month, in response to Beijing’s sweeping national security law. At least 150,600 Hong Kongers have applied for the British National (Overseas) visa program that is a pathway to UK citizenship. China has said it no longer recognizes this type of passport as a valid travel document.
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