Joshua Wong says HSBC rejected applications to open accounts

April 05, 2016 10:16
Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow suspect HSBC rejected their applications because of their political stance. Photos: HKEJ, CR2

Student activist Joshua Wong, convenor of the now defunct student activist group Scholarism, said HSBC rejected his applications for opening a joint account with another member of the group as well as an individual account, suggesting commerce has become a victim of politics, Apple Daily reports.

Wong, who is seeking to establish a new party with some former Scholarism members by mid-April through company registry, told Commercial Radio that he and former Scholarism spokeswoman Agnes Chow Ting went to HSBC to open a joint account last week to deposit money raised for the new party, only to be told that the application was rejected for administrative and business arrangement reasons.

He said HSBC asked for not only his identification card and certificate of address but also information about his parents’ bank accounts, occupations and income.

Wong, who has owned a child account with HSBC, also asked to open an additional individual account but was also turned down.

Suspecting HSBC’s rejection of his applications was due to his political background, Wong said he would try to open a joint account with another bank or, if that also failed, use his existing personal account for the new party’s money to be monitored by a lawyer and an accountant.

Chow said she is now afraid the party’s application for company registry might also be rejected.

HSBC said in a reply to Apple Daily’s enquiry it does not reject people’s applications for account opening based on their political stance, but refused to comment on any individual case, stressing that an application with all the necessary data and supporting documents is always processed.

This is not the first time banks rejected account opening by political activist groups.

Baggio Leung Chung-hang, convenor of the pro-independence group Youngspiration, said major banks, including HSBC, rejected his group's application when it tried to open an account last year.

Edward Leung Tin-kei, spokesman of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, also said it was unable to open a bank account last year because its application for establishment failed to get approval from the Companies Registry.

Lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai from the Neo Democrats suspected banks were trying to prevent some newly established political parties from accepting donations.

An industry insider said banks sometimes reject applications from some people who are seen to pose “alternative risks”, including "politically exposed people" or those who run gambling houses.

HSBC had previously been fined more than HK$10 billion over charges of involvement in money laundering and tax evasion, and that could have prompted the bank to be more cautious in allowing new accounts, the person said.

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