© Reuters. A logo of Standard Chartered is displayed at the financial Central district in Hong Kong
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong-listed shares of HSBC and Standard Chartered (OTC:) rose on Thursday after the banks backed China’s imposition of a national security law on the city, even as a pro-democracy and newly formed financial workers’ union criticized the move.
Some staff at the Asia-focussed British banks and analysts said HSBC (L:) and Standard Chartered’s (L:) stance on the law would help them protect their businesses in their single most important market of Hong Kong.
HSBC shares (HK:) were up 1.6% at noon, after having risen as much as 2.8% earlier, and StanChart (HK:) jumped 2.3%. The broader Hang Seng market index () was down 0.1%.
In a break from their usual policy of political neutrality, both banks on Wednesday backed the national security law that has drawn global condemnation and revived anti-government demonstrations in the former British colony.
“Investors should welcome these statements,” said Hao Hong, Hong Kong-based head of research at brokerage BOCOM International. “It could get shitty if you are in the city and don’t support the law.”
The Global Times, which is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said, citing a Chinese expert, that HSBC’s move should have come earlier, but can also be seen as “never too late”.
HSBC was caught up in Hong Kong’s months-long anti-government protests that started in 2019, with its branches vandalised and bronze lion statues outside its headquarters defaced during a protest march at the start of this year.
Some protesters accused HSBC of being complicit in action by the authorities against activists trying to raise money to support protesters, accusations the bank has denied.
Some of HSBC’s corporate peers including Cathay Pacific Airways (HK:) have faced retribution from Beijing for perceived support for the anti-government protesters.
“The reason for the statement is white terror, forced action to protect the bank’s business,” Wong, an HSBC staff in Hong Kong who declined to give his full name, told Reuters.
“When (these) two banks started to take stand, it will be no surprise that other banks will start to follow suit.”
But the Hong Kong Finance General Employee Union, formed in September to bring together the local financial professionals amid pro-democracy protests, has criticised the move.
“HSBC and Standard Chartered should clarify if they are betraying Hong Kong people while most of the governments from the western world are against this evil law and supporting Hong Kong people,” union Chairman Ka-Wing Kwok said.
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