Big Four accounting firms assailed on HK stance

By Sha Sha Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/15 22:08:40

Anonymous employees said mounting drive to support rioters

Photo: VCG

People who claim to be employees of the Big Four accounting firms - KPMG, Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - in Hong Kong have crowd-funded an advertisement in the city's Apple Daily to denounce statements made by senior executives of their firms and whitewash arrested rioters as "righteous guys" as increasingly violent protests bring huge damage to the city.

Chinese experts warned that some of the Big Four which have not issued official response, as major firms, have an obligation to let the public know their stances on the matter.

Apple Daily is known for its stance of supporting violent Hong Kong protesters and it is seen as accomplice to the rioters. Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of the newspaper, is called the leader of "Gangster of four" that brought chaos to Hong Kong.

According to online funding site, a campaign titled "Donation for Big 4 Staff Declaration" received HK$75,699 ($9,650) from 253 backers and was 108 percent funded one day before the deadline. Many of those who donated are anonymous.

One advertisement is set to appear in Apple Daily on Friday, stating the funders' demands such as releasing arrested rioters as they are "righteous guys."

EY distanced itself from the matter in an emailed statement sent to the Global Times on Thursday night.

"EY reaffirmed support for the 'one country, two systems' principle and the Basic Law of HKSAR... And EY had explicitly told its employees that the firm held zero tolerance policy on illegal activity," the statement reads. 

Having been aware of the ongoing fundraising, the firm said it cannot verify the identity of these individuals though as a firm it never endorses such behaviors. 

PwC has not provided a response while the other two accounting firms cannot be reached for comments as of press time Thursday.

Because those people have hijacked the names of the Big Four, without exposing their real identities, other accounting firms also need to address this issue as soon as possible to avoid anything that will bring them into disrepute, Dong Shaopeng, an advisor to the China Securities Regulatory Commission, told the Global Times on Thursday. He urged the other three accounting firms to make clarifications as soon as possible.

"If those who initiated the donations are truly their employees, then such conduct will cause disruption to Hong Kong's rule of law and the companies are obligated to give an explanation and not tolerate anti-government forces," Dong said.

Dong said companies doing business in China naturally need to respect Chinese regulations and territorial integrity.

An employee of EY's Hong Kong office, who is from the Chinese mainland and who only spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times that he is "disappointed and pained" at the company after receiving an internal letter from the EY leadership team on recent riots in Hong Kong. The letter shows the company condones violent behavior of anti-government secessionists, he said.  

A flier with design similar to that of EY's logo that called for Big Four employees to participate in a strike in early August for "the future of Hong Kong" was widely circulated on social media platforms. Some EY employees were believed to have participated in the protest.

The Global Times saw that the internal letter, sent on behalf of Albert Ng, EY China Managing Partner, said that the company strongly condemned the conduct of certain individuals "using EY's logo and brand design without authorization on communications that are posted on social media."

The internal letter urged employees to refrain from taking part in any illegal activity and said that "any unlawful act will not be tolerated in EY." 

"As one of the global Big Four that has close business ties with the Chinese mainland, the internal letter did not even blame those employees who participated in the protest. This is unacceptable!" the EY employee said.

He noted that he and other colleagues who love China hope that EY could set an example for all companies in the industry.

Newspaper headline: Accounting firms assailed on HK stance


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