HSBC Holdings PLC (LON:HSBA) and Standard Chartered PLC (LON:STAN) have both backed controversial national security laws for Hong Kong, saying the legislation will help maintain stability in the territory.
The laws, which supposedly target secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference, were approved by China’s rubber stamp parliament last month following almost a year of pro-democracy protests and legislative gridlock in the city’s parliament.
The legislation has attracted criticism from international human rights groups as well as opposition politicians in Hong Kong, who fear the laws will be used to silence opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.
In a statement on Chinese social media site WeChat on Wednesday, HSBC’s Asia chief executive Peter Wong said the bank will “respect and support laws and regulations that will enable Hong Kong to recover and rebuild the economy and, at the same time, maintain the principle of ‘one country two systems’.”
Meanwhile, Standard Chartered said they believed the new laws will “help maintain the long-term economic and social stability of Hong Kong”.
The backing of the two UK banks, both of which derive significant portions of their profits from the Chinese and Asian markets, follows criticism of HSBC last week from former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying after the company failed to voice its support for the security legislation.
The pro-Beijing politician had also made something of a veiled threat against HSBC’s China business, saying the bank’s operations “can be replaced by banks from China or other countries overnight”.
It is also not the first time HSBC has found itself caught in the crossfire of Hong Kong’s protest movement, having several of its branches in the city vandalised last year.
Shares in HSBC fell 0.7% to 398.9p in late-morning trading on Thursday, while Standard Chartered was up 0.8% at 430.7p.