Banks urge staff in Hong Kong to steer clear of dangerous places or stay home

Protesters in Hong Kong's Central district on Nov 14, 2019. Executives at a number of firms expressed a heightened level of caution this week after skirmishes repeatedly erupted in the streets during work hours this week.
Protesters in Hong Kong's Central district on Nov 14, 2019. Executives at a number of firms expressed a heightened level of caution this week after skirmishes repeatedly erupted in the streets during work hours this week.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Firms across Hong Kong have urged workers to consider staying home to ensure their families' safety as protests rage on.

Citigroup warned its Hong Kong staff to steer clear of dangerous places after police grabbed one of its investment bankers off a sidewalk. It said safety was the priority amid escalating clashes between protesters and police, people familiar with the situation said, asking not to be named as the matter is private.

One of its staff is the person seen in a video that has circulated widely on social media. It shows a trio of officers surrounding a man in a covered walkway. He tries to break away, at one point grabbing and swinging one of their batons as they wrestle him to the ground. As officers pile onto the man, a voice - possibly his - can be heard shouting "Hong Kong people, resist!"

"We are aware of this incident and are investigating further," said Mr James Griffiths, a spokesman for the New York-based lender.

"While investigations continue it would be inappropriate to comment further. We expect all our employees to abide by the law."

In a flurry of safety memos - which have become a part of daily life at big banks in the financial hub - executives at a number of firms expressed a heightened level of caution after skirmishes erupted during work hours this week.

"Where meetings are already planned, managers should not hesitate to cancel and reschedule depending on the evolution of the situation," BNP Paribas told staff.

Standard Chartered also advised employees to reschedule meetings and travel as appropriate.

At JPMorgan Chase & Co's main Hong Kong offices, where some of this week's biggest clashes between protesters and police have taken place just steps away, employees were reminded to feel empowered to make arrangements "in circumstances that require flexibility (for example, family needs, school closures, transport issues)".

 

HSBC Holdings encouraged staff to work remotely if possible and to stay in touch with managers.

Deutsche Bank told employees: "All staff should exercise due care while commuting, remain vigilant of their surroundings and check travel plans before leaving for the office."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2019, with the headline 'Banks urge staff to steer clear of dangerous places or stay home'. Print Edition | Subscribe