HSBC and Citi bankers who ignore the directive will be “liable, on indictment, to a fine and up to seven years in jail,” according to letters seen by Bloomberg News.
Security Secretary John Lee, who signed the letters seen by Bloomberg News, previously announced he was freezing bank accounts linked to the publisher of the city’s pro-democracy Apple Daily under Hong’s law. Kong on national security. The letters were sent to HSBC Holdings Plc and Citigroup Inc. earlier this month.
Bankers who ignore the directive will be “liable, by indictment, to a fine and up to seven years in jail,” the letters said.
“I am wielding power because Lai has been charged with two offenses of colluding with another country or outside forces to endanger national security,” Lee said at a press conference Thursday. “It is my duty to specify in my notice to the parties concerned what the consequences will be if they do not comply with my instructions. “
A Citigroup spokesperson said in an email that it does not comment on individual accounts and is required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the markets in which it operates. An HSBC spokeswoman declined to comment.
The letters could further frighten investors in the Asian financial center as Beijing tightens its grip on the city. More than 40% of members polled by the local American Chamber of Commerce said they may leave Hong Kong, highlighting concerns in the business community over the security law and strict government policies related to Covid-19.
Lai, a prominent democracy activist who used his Next Digital Ltd. media properties to support the 2019 protests against China, is currently in jail for attending unauthorized rallies in Hong Kong. He also faces more serious charges under the security law, including “collusion” with foreign forces.
A financial adviser to Lai said the amount of money in the accounts was relatively small but represented the Hong Kong end of a network of international banking relationships linked to his private wealth, according to Reuters, which reported the existence of the letters. earlier.