Picture: BLOOMBERG/SIMON DAWSON
Picture: BLOOMBERG/SIMON DAWSON

Hong Kong — Former Hong Kong democracy legislator and activist Ted Hui, who fled to Britain after facing criminal charges, said some of his bank accounts have been unfrozen after holds had been placed on it, and he has moved funds swiftly from HSBC because he no longer trusts the global bank.

Hui, who faces charges linked to antigovernment demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city last year, said on Sunday his Hong Kong bank accounts had been frozen after he left the city to seek exile in Britain with his family to continue his pro-democracy activities.

Hui said later holds on his family accounts were taken off and his personal accounts also partially released, while also taking aim at the city’s most prominent lender.

“Due to complete distrust of HSBC in Hong Kong, my family has immediately transferred their savings to some safe places,” Hui said on his Facebook page.

HSBC said it is disappointed to see the circumstances being “misrepresented”, but did not elaborate, saying they are unable to comment on specific account activity.

“When banks are made aware of negative news in the market, they will enhance due diligence on the relevant accounts as part of their responsibility,” a HSBC spokesperson said in an e-mail reply requesting comment.

“We have to abide by the laws of the jurisdiction in which we operate,” she said. “Further inquiries should be directed to law enforcement.”

Hong Kong police said late on Sunday they are investigating a Hong Kong person who had absconded overseas with bank accounts being frozen, for suspected money laundering and possible violation of the new national security law.

It was not immediately clear if police were referring to Hui, one of several pro-democracy activists and opposition legislators arrested last month and charged with disturbing legislature proceedings.

Urged regulators

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau issued a statement on Friday that, while not naming Hui, said “running away by jumping bail and using various excuses such as so-called ‘exile’ to avoid one’s responsibility is a shameful, hypocritical and cowardly act of recoil”.

Hui, who quit the Legislative Council last month in protest at the dismissal of four colleagues in what they called another push by Beijing to suppress democracy in the city, urged Hong Kong and international financial regulators to investigate his case.

The veteran activist told Reuters via social media on Sunday that bank accounts belonging to him, his wife and his parents at Bank of China Hong Kong, HSBC and Hang Seng Bank were frozen. He gave no further details.

A Hang Seng Bank spokesperson said it does not comment on the details of individual accounts. Bank of China did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Local media reported that at least five accounts worth hundreds of thousands of US dollars belonging to Hui and his family have been inaccessible since Saturday.

Hui contacted the banks and was told there were “remarks” placed on his accounts, but staff refused to provide further information, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported.

HSBC has found itself caught in the crosshairs of pro-democracy protests in the former British colony, its biggest market, with its branches vandalised during some rallies.

Some protesters have accused HSBC of being complicit in action by the authorities against activists, accusations the bank has denied.

Democracy activists say conditions have worsened in the former British colony after China imposed security legislation on the financial hub in June, making anything Beijing regards as subversion, secession, terrorism or colluding with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.

The US is preparing to impose sanctions on at least a dozen Chinese officials over their alleged role in Beijing’s disqualification of the Hong Kong opposition legislators, three sources told Reuters on Sunday.

China, which promises Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy under its handover agreement with Britain in 1997, denies curbing rights and freedoms in the city and has condemned US sanctions related to Hong Kong as interference in China’s internal affairs.

Reuters

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