Exiled Hong Kong legislator accuses HSBC of freezing bank account

source https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/07/exiled-hong-kong-legislator-calls-for-inquiry-after-hsbc-freezes-bank-account

A Hong Kong legislator who fled to Europe has called on regulators to investigate the actions of major banks including HSBC, after his accounts and those of his wife and parents were allegedly frozen.

Ted Hui is the latest pro-democracy figure to leave Hong Kong and its authorities’ escalating crackdown on all dissent which last week saw Jimmy Lai denied bail, and Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam jailed. On Monday eight people were reportedly arrested by the national security police over a small and peaceful student rally at the Chinese University of Hong Kong last month.

Hui left Hong Kong for Denmark last week, before announcing that he and his family would not return. The family are now in the UK where they plan to live in exile.

At the weekend Hui alleged that bank accounts belonging to him and his family had been frozen, which he labelled “political retaliation through economic oppression”.

Hui told Danish media he faced serious “consequences” including lengthy prison terms if he returned to Hong Kong and was convicted under the national security law.

Following an outcry, Hui’s family accounts were partially unfrozen late on Sunday and he said the family were moving funds to other institutions “because of their complete distrust in HSBC”, and he called on regulators to investigate and punish law enforcement officers and banking management who he accused of abusing the law.

HSBC has been contacted with questions. A spokesman earlier told other media the bank would not comment on individual cases but that the circumstances had been “misrepresented”.

Hui said the asset freezings reflected what banks could do “as a result of political pressure”, and this affected the credibility of Hong Kong as an international banking and finance hub. On Monday finance secretary, Paul Chan, rejected the assertion, saying Hong Kong remained “robust”. The Hang Sen Index dropped more than 2% on open on Monday.

Late on Sunday Hong Kong police said they were investigating suspected violations of the national security law and money laundering related to a crowdfunding exercise, which Hui denies. The funds were raised for Hui to launch private prosecutions including against the police, but the justice department intervened to stop the prosecutions.

Police also said Hui was also suspected of “foreign collusion”, an accusation levelled against several pro-democracy activists but so far without charge.

Hui is among the dozens of pro-democracy legislators who resigned en masse last month in response to the Beijing-led disqualification of four colleagues. He was facing multiple charges related to the pro-democracy protests and incidents during parliamentary debates. He was on bail when he left Hong Kong and had been granted permission to leave for Denmark.

Police commissioner, Chris Tang Ping-keung, accused Hui of “lacking a conscience” and fleeing after “inciting” protesters who might now face jail terms for rioting.

On Monday local media reported at least eight people had been arrested by the police’s national security unit over a peaceful demonstration held at CUHK late last month. Students had protested the university’s decision to move graduation ceremonies – which have often been used as protest platforms – online. Attendees wore masks and held signs bearing slogans including “Liberate Hong Kong: Revolution of our time”, and “this revolution was ultimately won by no one, but please stay with us to witness it”.

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