Former Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui asks why HSBC is still freezing his accounts

Former Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui is now in Australia.
Former Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui is now in Australia.PHOTO: TED HUI CHI FUNG/FACEBOOK

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - A former Hong Kong lawmaker who fled abroad is questioning why HSBC Holdings is still freezing his bank accounts in a case that continues to embroil the London-based lender in the contentious politics of the former British colony.

Mr Ted Hui, a former pro-democracy lawmaker who is now in Australia, demanded accountability from HSBC in a Facebook post on Tuesday (June 29).

Mr Hui previously blasted HSBC chief executive officer Noel Quinn after the banker reached out to the activist to explain that the lender had to comply with a police request to freeze the accounts.

"Six months has passed since HSBC unreasonably froze my accounts and my family's last year," Mr Hui wrote. "Since then, the Hong Kong police never disclosed any information regarding my case: No evidence, no arrest, no prosecution, no wanted list, no further legal proceedings."

The Hong Kong police and HSBC did not immediately respond to requests for a comment about Mr Hui, who was previously arrested in connection with a protest in the legislative chamber.

Hong Kong's Security Bureau has criticised what it described as an action by an unidentified fugitive to escape prosecution after Mr Hui fled first to Europe and then to Australia.

The case illustrates the pitfalls for businesses trying to operate in Hong Kong after China imposed a sweeping - but vaguely worded - national security law on the territory in the wake of protests in 2019.

Local authorities used the legislation this month to arrest top editors at the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper belonging to now-jailed activist and tycoon Jimmy Lai. The company ceased publication after it said officials used the law to block access to its bank accounts.

HSBC, which counts Hong Kong as its biggest market, has come under fire from western politicians over freezing Mr Hui's accounts. In January, Mr Quinn went before the British Parliament's foreign affairs committee to answer for the bank's actions.

In June last year, former United States secretary of state Mike Pompeo slammed the bank for assisting the Chinese Communist Party's "coercive bully tactics" when its former top executive in Asia, Mr Peter Wong, signed a petition backing the security law.

In his post, Mr Hui said he received legal advice suggesting that a police order asking a bank to freeze accounts should be rendered invalid after six months.

He questioned whether it was "purely political persecution on a dissident by mean of freezing assets".

"The answer is crystal clear," he wrote.