Lawyer urges police to probe HSBC for alleged role in Meng arrest

By Chu Daye Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/10 21:28:12

People visit the stand of Huawei during the 6th China Mobile Global Partner Conference in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

A Chinese lawyer has urged Shanghai police to investigate the alleged illegal role of a Chinese subsidiary of UK-based banking giant HSBC in the arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of China's Huawei.

Lawyer Li Mingqiang said in a public letter to the Shanghai police on Monday that HSBC Bank (China) Co Ltd, an HSBC subsidiary, had exposed Huawei trade secrets and breached a convention that a China-registered business entity should first report any suspected wrongdoings by its clients to Chinese authorities, instead of foreign ones.

Li said in the letter that information revealed to public so far clearly shows that HSBC has disclosed, on its own initiative, trade secrets belonging to Huawei, the bank's client, to foreign governments.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, a monitor appointed by the US government to oversee HSBC's anti money-laundering controls flagged "illicit transactions" made by Huawei at the bank and shared them with New York prosecutors. That led to the arrest of Meng.

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times, Li, who declined to identify the firm where he practices law, said he has no personal affiliation with Huawei and is neutral toward the firm.

"I raised the issue with Shanghai police as the Shanghai-based HSBC subsidiary could have assisted HSBC units in the US and provided Huawei's information to the US government, which would be a direct breach of Chinese law," Li said Monday.

As a bank, HSBC is obliged to protect Huawei's business information, and should not disclose Huawei's information to any third party without the request of Chinese prosecutors or other effective administrative orders issued in China, said Li in his public statement on WeChat, which had been deleted as of press time.

Li said that nonetheless, his whistle-blowing letter, which he sent using his real name, should have already been received by Shanghai police, both through his WeChat statement and his direct notification to the Shanghai police official account on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service.

Li suggested that HSBC could have violated clause 219 of the Criminal Law of China.

Li urged Shanghai police to probe HSBC's alleged wrongdoings to protect the legitimate interests of Chinese companies in his statement posted on WeChat. Before it was deleted, the post went viral, gaining more than 100,000 views, the most for any post on WeChat on Monday afternoon.

Yan Yiming, a Shanghai-based lawyer, told the Global Times that it is likely that the HSBC China unit could have violated Chinese law.

"Where the related information is generated and obtained is crucial to determine the legality of HSBC's actions," Yan said, noting that if the information is generated or obtained in China, then the bank could have compromised Huawei's trade secrets.

"More and more Chinese people nowadays have deposit accounts with foreign banks. If their information and privacy is at all times exposed to the jurisdiction of foreign laws and not Chinese laws, their rights cannot be properly protected," Li said, explaining why he thinks this is a matter of utmost importance.

HSBC Bank (China) Co Ltd could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1 and faces extradition to the US after she was accused on Friday of breaking US sanctions on Iran, the BBC reported on Saturday.

China has lodged strong protests against the US' groundless request to Canada to detain Meng and urged the US to take immediate measures to correct the mistake, according to a statement by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday night.


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