WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the United States was "dismayed" by British bank HSBC's reported actions toward certain Hong Kong-related accounts, including those linked to pro-democracy publisher Next Media, and said China was "bullying" the United Kingdom.
Pompeo cited reports of Hong Kong-based executives at Next Media being unable to access their HSBC bank accounts and said the bank was "maintaining accounts for individuals who have been sanctioned for denying freedom for Hong Kongers, while shutting accounts for those seeking freedom."
"Free nations must ensure that corporate interests are not suborned by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) to aid its political repression," Pompeo said in a statement. "We stand ready to help the British government and its companies resist CCP bullying and stand for freedom."
Representatives for the London-based bank, in an email, declined to comment.
Washington has criticized Beijing's crackdown against pro-democracy opposition in the now Chinese-ruled city following a sweeping new security law imposed on Hong Kong on June 30 that was widely condemned by Western nations.
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, a prominent democracy activist and top executive at Next Digital, was arrested Aug. 10 under the new law, further stoking concerns about media and other freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to China in 1997.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Lawrence White; editing by Jason Neely and Steve Orlofsky) ((202-898-8300; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))