Student activist Joshua Wong accuses the HSBC bank of exercising “political censorship” in rejecting his request to open a savings account to handle the business of his new political party.
Wong is a well known activist, founder of the Scholarism group involved in several major pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong since 2011. He is currently setting up his new political party called Demosisto, which will push for a referendum on Hong Kong’s future and advocate for the semi-autonomous city’s independence.
Earlier this month, Wong and another core organiser of the new party, Agnes Chow Ting, also formerly with Scholarism, tried to open a joint savings account at HSBC to deal with donations and daily business for their new party.
However, they claim the bank refused to open a current account for alleged “administrative” and “business” reasons. According to Wong, HSBC asked about the purpose of the account and called him to ask about his parents jobs and incomes even though they are of legal age to open an account by themselves. The activist said a second application for his own personal account was also rejected, adding that one branch manager told him he would not be able to open any new accounts at HSBC.
“It seems the fuss is because I am a politically sensitive person,” Wong said. “Political censorship seems to have been involved in the bank’s business considerations.”
An HSBC spokesman declined to comment, saying: “Due to our policy of confidentiality regarding issues relating to customers, we are unable to comment.” But added: “The bank does not refuse to open an account because of customers’ political views.”
Nevertheless, HSBC is currently embroiled in the Panama Papers leaks in which it is named as one of the major international banks deeply involved in setting up offshore companies for wealthy clients. Therefore, Wong wrote on his Facebook account: “It’s not okay for me to open an account, but not a problem for the rich to set up offshore companies like crazy.”
“If HSBC claims that they do not discriminate over various political viewpoints, why would it help rich and sensitive clients register more than 2,300 shell companies?,” Wong told the news website Quartz.
These allegations came as another newly launched Hong Kong independence party complained about problems in seeking registration by the Companies Registry. The Hong Kong National Party also claimed political considerations were involved.
Finance sector legislator Ng Leung-sing said banks tend to be more cautious when dealing with new clients in order to follow guidelines set by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.