Hong Kong Banks condemn violence, urge restoration of ‘harmony’

Vastavam web: Some of Hong Kong’s biggest banks published full-page newspaper advertisements on Thursday calling for the preservation of law and order in the Chinese territory and condemning violence, as weeks of pro-democracy protests show no sign of abating. HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of East Asia, which published the advertisements in major newspapers in the Asian financial hub, all urged the restoration of social order.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents held an anti-government protest on Wednesday at a suburban subway station where demonstrators were attacked by a mob of white-shirted men last month. Protesters at the subway station on Wednesday were angry that nobody has yet been prosecuted for that violence.

Anger erupted in June over a now-suspended bill that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China for trial but have since grown into one of the biggest populist challenges faced by Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012.

The unrest has been fuelled by broader worries about the erosion of freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula adopted after Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 but not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary and the right to protest.

Continuing protests could deepen the impact on the city’s economy, especially small and medium enterprises, Bank of East Asia warned on Wednesday after reporting a 75% plunge in its first-half net profit due to loan writedowns in mainland China. The protests are already exacting a toll on Hong Kong’s economy and tourism, with the Asian financial hub on the verge of its first recession in a decade.

Standard Chartered said in Thursday’s advertisements the bank supported the special administrative region’s government to uphold social order and “guard the status of Hong Kong as an international financial centre”.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday that the extradition legislation was dead but has stopped short of withdrawing the bill, as protesters have demanded. Demonstrators are also calling for an independent inquiry, a halt to descriptions of the protests as “rioting”, a waiver of charges against those arrested, and resumption of political reform.

Protests in recent weeks, which have at times drawn more than a million people onto the streets, have also included the storming of the legislature and major disruptions and violence at the airport.