HSBC bronze lions, Wan Chai branch fall victim to vandalism

January 02, 2020 13:45
A bronze lion statue outside the HSBC headquarters in Central is vandalized following an anti-government march on New Year's Day. Photo: Reuters

HSBC strongly condemned acts of vandalism by anti-government protesters who attacked its Wan Chai branch and the two lion statues at its headquarters in Central on New Year's Day.

The attacks happened while a massive, peaceful march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front was taking place on Hong Kong Island on Wednesday afternoon.

The radical protesters targeted HSBC after the bank closed an account belonging to Spark Alliance, an online platform that has been raising money in support of the protest movement.

At around 4:30 p.m., a few black-clad and masked people were seen spraying paint on the HSBC branch across the Southorn Playground before they charged into it and went on a vandalism spree, damaging the automated teller machines inside, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Masked plainclothes police officers arrived at the scene soon afterwards and subdued several people on the spot, causing an uproar among the marchers, who were then pepper-sprayed.

A large group of anti-riot police officers arrived later at the scene and made arrests.

More protesters surrounded the officers and chaos ensued. Some people threw bottles at the police, who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The police later said five people were arrested for criminal damage after they smashed the bank’s glass doors and ATMs.

Later at dusk, the two bronze lions sitting in front of the entrance of the HSBC main building in Central were spray-painted in red and then set fire to with inflammable liquid. The HSBC ATMs on Pedder Street were also set on fire.

Besides HSBC, Hang Seng Bank also saw its branch on Yee Wo Street damaged.

In a statement on Facebook on Wednesday night, HSBC Hong Kong said such acts of vandalism and damage directed at its premises repeatedly in the past several days were “unjustified” and some branch facilities and ATMs had been suspended.

“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused and are working hard to resume service. As a bank with deep roots in Hong Kong, we are committed to providing the highest standards of banking services to our customers," the bank said.

"We believe the rule of law is essential to Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center and we look forward to the speedy resolution of the issues,” it added.

HSBC on Thursday morning sent personnel to clean the bronze lions outside the bank’s main building.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also condemned the damages directed on banking facilities in Hong Kong. It said the “expression of opinions should be conducted in a peaceful manner, without affecting the public’s access to banking services”.

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The bronze lion regains its majesty after HSBC sent personnel to clean the statue on Thursday morning. Photo: HKEJ