HSBC executive apologises for calling UK ‘weak’ over China


HSBC executive apologises for calling UK ‘weak’ over China

  • Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles is chairman of the China-Britain Business Council
  • ‘I apologise for any offence caused,’ said the former UK ambassador to Israel
  • His remarks come amidst heightened tensions between the West and China

A senior HSBC executive has apologised for saying Britain was ‘weak’ in regularly yielding to pressure from the US to reduce its business ties with China.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who is the banking giant’s head of public affairs, reportedly made the comments at a closed-door event in London two months ago, according to Bloomberg News.

At the meeting, the former UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Afghanistan said the UK should follow its interests instead of heeding the US line.

Saying sorry: Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles has apologised for saying Britain was 'weak' in regularly yielding to pressure from the United States to reduce its business ties with China

Saying sorry: Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles has apologised for saying Britain was ‘weak’ in regularly yielding to pressure from the United States to reduce its business ties with China

He cited the UK Government’s decision in 2020 to remove equipment made by Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from the country’s 5G mobile phone networks as an example, Bloomberg reported.

Britain initially approved the use of Huawei technology with restrictions in January 2020 before reversing course just six months later after significant pressure from the Trump Administration.

Cowper-Coles also chairs the China-Britain Business Council, a lobby group promoting trade between the UK and China, which totalled £111billion last year.

He said in a statement on Monday: ‘I was speaking at a private event under Chatham House Rules, and my personal comments do not reflect the views of HSBC or the China British Business Council. I apologise for any offence caused.’

Chatham House Rules dictate that those attending a meeting can report what was said but not identify who made the remarks.

The ex-diplomat’s remarks come at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions between the UK and China regarding human rights, the status of Taiwan, and the theft of intellectual property, among other concerns.

Politicians across many Western countries are urging businesses to reduce their reliance on the world’s second-largest economy for both economic and security reasons.

Yet HSBC has gone in the other direction, investing billions of pounds in China over recent years as part of a ‘pivot to Asia,‘ with an eye on growing its presence in the wealth management and commercial banking sectors.

In 2022, the group made about 44 per cent of its profits across Mainland China and Hong Kong, compared to 20 per cent in the UK.

At the same time, the bank has been reluctant to criticise controversial policies implemented by the Chinese government.

It was heavily criticised for supporting the introduction of a national security law in Hong Kong three years ago that has subsequently led to the mass arrests of pro-democracy activists.

British and US lawmakers and human rights groups have also accused the company of blocking Hong Kong citizens who had fled overseas from accessing their pension funds.

Last week, HSBC reported pre-tax profits more than doubled to a forecast-beating £16.9billion on the back of interest rate hikes and cost-cutting measures.

The result appeared to draw a line under the bank’s dispute with insurer Ping An, which tried but failed to force the group to spin off its Asian business in May. 

HSBC shares were 0.7 per cent, or 4.6p, higher at 641p on late Monday afternoon and have expanded by approximately 21 per cent so far this year.





Read More

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More