Update: HSBC denial not persuasive, nothing but deathbed struggle: observers

By GT staff reporters Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/25 21:41:44

Official investigation into British bank needed: analyst


Chinese observers called HSBC's latest statement on Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's case "not persuasive" at all, instead, it serves as an implicit non-denial of its conspiring role in the case, exposing the company's "deathbed struggle" after the London-headquartered bank made its first public response to the allegation of its role in Meng's case on Saturday.   

Given the ongoing spat between Huawei and HSBC as well as ambiguous claims from the bank, it is time now for Chinese authorities to launch a thorough investigation into HSBC's alleged wrongdoings in Meng's case, some analysts suggested. 

HSBC issued a statement on Saturday which said the bank was not involved in the decision by the US Department of Justice to investigate Huawei and did not encourage it to do so. And the bank does not have any hostility toward Huawei, did not frame Huawei nor did it "set traps to ensnare Huawei."

The clarification came following mounting pressure on the multinational bank after new evidence Huawei provided to a Canadian court showed that HSBC conspired with the US Department of Justice to set up a "political trap" for Huawei and gave false testimony to the court.

However, in its attempt to justify the role of "accomplice" to the US political scheme against Huawei, HSBC argued that it was involved in the case in late 2016, which was later than when the case was set up by the US, but it did admit it handed materials regarding its client to the US.

The latest statement, issued by the British bank on Saturday, is full of contradictions that might have led to a false testimony, and it cannot save the British bank's ruined reputation in the Chinese market, some analysts said. The move is considered as a deathbed struggle of the British bank in face of growing controversy in China amid rising tension between China and the UK and the lender could face a dead end for conspiring with the US against Huawei, they added.

"The latest statement by the HSBC is unconvincing, as it acknowledged it indeed provided materials to the US Department of Justice," Xiang Ligang, a Chinese telecom industry analyst, told the Global Times on Saturday. 

In addition, Xiang said HSBC reacted by submitting the materials after the US investigation on the bank, which simply showed the bank is aware of the case and proved its conspiring role.

"The latest statement by HSBC is not explicit in denying its involvement in Meng's case," Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Ministry of Commerce's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Saturday.

In an attempt to deny deliberately setting up traps to ensnare Huawei, HSBC said it made standard enquiries regarding Huawei about its relationship with Skycom after news reports in December 2012 and January 2013, which actually proved it might have given false testimony to the court by saying it was misled by Huawei because Huawei hid its relationship with Skycom from HSBC. This claim is the basis upon which the US made the "fraud accusations," observers noted.

"I hope other countries and institutions can learn their lessons and not meddle with China-US disputes [like HSBC], as the consequences and damage of getting involved in such disputes will be horrendous," Mei warned, giving an example from HSBC's statement. "Look at how carefully the company speaks. It proves it is getting huge pressure from all sides."

HSBC's conduct teaches a lesson to all foreign companies that "if you want to earn money from Chinese people, you must respect the interests of China," Mei added.

"At present, HSBC is faced with two major problems in China. First, its reputation among Chinese people has deteriorated; more importantly, it is possible that some large-scale enterprises in China will stop doing business with HSBC when they see how the company got involved in the Huawei case," Xiang warned. 

The public is not a judge, but it is up to the public to judge whether HSBC's explanation is acceptable, Xiang added.

Some Chinese netizens made comments regarding HSBC's latest statement on Sina Weibo, showing their skepticism on its clarification and asking the British bank to leave China.

"Which Chinese enterprise would dare to cooperate with such a bank in the future? Chinese businesses remain the largest market share for HSBC and it seems the bank cannot grab the cake," Weibo user @lunancybuyanbuyuhaofengjing commented on Saturday. 

Another Weibo user @handongyan commented: "HSBC may lose its whole Chinese market just for $80 million. More importantly, it throws a rock only to hit its own head and its name is now in the mud."

The statement from HSBC is playing with language, with key questions remaining unanswered, Shen Yi, professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

 "The bank is trying to defend itself but whether it followed the hints of the US government to collude with relevant authorities in Meng's case remains a question. Is this how it is exonerating itself from this situation? It needs a more explicit explanation," he said, adding that it's time for China to launch a thorough investigation into the matter. 

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