PwC’s vague statement on HK situation draws criticism from Chinese public

By Li Xuanmin and Shen Weiduo Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/5 18:51:12

PwC statement on Hong Kong strike draws ire

A view of PwC office in Beijing in January. Photo: VCG

Chinese netizens are angry at the vague statement from one of the "big four" global accounting firms, PwC, calling it the next Pocari Sweat and condemning its fence-sitting approach to dealing with the Hong Kong riot. This outrage comes after the company issued a statement in response to a PwC-titled post that urged people to join the strike organized by Hong Kong protesters on Monday.

"We fully respect people's right to freedom of speech… our top priority at all times is the safety of our people," PwC said in a statement sent to the Global Times on Monday. The company noted that it very much regrets the recent escalation of violence in Hong Kong and the disruption that is affecting normal peace and order. 

The response came after a post, which used the official company branding, format, color and font of PwC, has been circulated on social media in recent days. The post urged employees to join the city-wide strike on Monday and said that the violent protest is "gathering support from different industries, including the Big 4 and other accounting firms." The posts were spread out and hung in PwC's Hong Kong office, according to photos from social media. 

PwC said it condemns the use of social media to spread false messages using the firm's corporate identity, including the imitation of visual design and color that are designed to mislead the public.

However, the response, which did not draw a clear line between the company's official stance on the violent protesters, has sparked widespread dissatisfaction among the public. PwC's statement has been described as unclear as to whether the firm supports secessionism or not.

Some also suggest that Chinese authorities revoke the firms' business license in China and put it to the soon-to-be released entity list.

"Does the statement mean that PwC will shield its employees who organize and participate in the violent protests? It wants to make money from China, but it is inciting unrest at the same time. This is absolutely unacceptable," An employee of a Hong Kong-based financial institution surnamed Hai told the Global Times, urging the firm to respect China's rules and sovereignty. 

"Do you want to be the next Pocari Sweat? We don't mind to see 'Big four' changed to 'Big three,'" one netizen named Hyunyang said at a post that forwarded PwC's Weibo statement. The company has closed its comments section as of press time.  

Another netizen Zheshihewei warned that if PwC wants to play on both sides, then the company is doomed. "Only those that [show a] clear stance could win firm support from the Chinese public," the Weibo user said. 

Wang Jun, Chief Economist at Zhongyuan Bank Co, said that its statement also did not condemn the rioters who are severely harming social order and Hong Kong's position as an international financial center, which is quite "disappointing."

Analysts warned that PwC's ambiguous stance might also put its mainland businesses at risk.

Currently, many mainland-based, Hong Kong-listed companies will ask PwC to carry out audits for them; PwC might lose these customers if they do not "do the right thing," Wang told the Global Times on Monday.

PwC works for more than 32 percent of all New York-listed mainland and Hong Kong companies and more than 21 percent of NASDAQ-listed mainland and Hong Kong companies as of December 31, 2018, according to the company's official website.

Newspaper headline: PwC statement on Hong Kong strike draws ire


blog comments powered by Disqus