A church leader from Hong Kong has claimed that global bank HSBC froze his accounts in response to his vocal support for pro-democracy demonstrators.
Pastor Ray Chan says the bank engaged in “political retaliation” against him by suspending bank accounts belonging to him, his wife, and his church's charity.
In an open letter to HSBC, the Good Neighbour North District Church urged the bank — which is headquartered in London — to reopen Chan's accounts, noting that their ministry to the homeless will be suspended if they cannot access the funds required to provide hostel accommodation.
Chan is currently in the UK on “sabbatical”, and fears that he will not be able to return to Hong Kong if the bank continues to embargo his accounts. He said that HSBC had become "a tool for the regime’s attempt to take political revenge via economic oppression”.
"All dissenting voices, despite their peaceful and rational expressions, are disallowed,” he added, before urging people to “protect the core values of Hong Kong and voice your concerns over the regime’s attempt to manoeuvre private properties”.
The church said that the bank's actions were "no doubt an act of political retaliation" in response to their assistance of pro-democracy demonstrators who oppose Chinese rule in Hong Kong. “In the past year, our group, Safeguard Our Generation [also know as Protect Our Children], mainly comprised of middle-aged and elderly volunteers, was determined to offer humanitarian aid to protestors at the frontline," it added.
HSBC has said it cannot comment on specific accounts and is directing inquiries to the police.
Chan and several other members of Hong Kong's Christian community have played an active peacekeeping role in the ongoing protests and are often seen intervening to break up scuffles between police and demonstrators.
Chan's claims come shortly after authorities arrested several leading opposition figures, including leading Christian pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong.
Wong was sentenced for 13 and a half months for unauthorised assembly.
A committed Christian, Wong has said he continues to draw strength from the Bible. In particular, he highlighted Romans 5:3–4, where the apostle Paul encourages us to "glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope".