Caught between China and the US, the pressure for HSBC to split grows | Nils Pratley


Chief executive Noel Quinn opines unconvincingly about staying out of politics, but it’s not that simple

Noel Quinn, chief executive of HSBC, had his line and he stuck to it. He was just a humble banker, obeying the rules in Hong Kong, even the draconian ones imposed by Beijing that stamp out the last knockings of democracy. “It’s not my position to make moral or political judgments on these matters,” he told the foreign affairs select committee. “I have to comply with law”.

One matter in question was HSBC’s freezing of the bank account of pro-democracy activist Ted Hui. It was the Hong Kong police that told HSBC to act, said Quinn, and any bank would have to do the same. Not complying, he argued repeatedly, could ultimately mean losing the licence to operate.

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