A major shareholder in HSBC and Standard Chartered has expressed unease after the British-based banks pledged their support for Beijing's plan to implement national security laws in Hong Kong.
In a statement on Tuesday, Aviva Investors' chief investment officer for equities, David Cumming, questioned the two banks' public backing for the national security legislation. Beijing has yet to release the details of the legislation.
HSBC shares fell 3.6 per cent in London trading after the remarks. Stanchart slid more than two and a half per cent.
“We are uneasy at the decisions of HSBC and Standard Chartered to publicly support the proposed new national security law in Hong Kong without knowing the details of the law or how it will operate in practice," Cumming said.
“If companies make political statements, they must accept the corporate responsibilities that follow. Consequently, we expect both companies to confirm that they will also speak out publicly if there are any future abuses of democratic freedoms connected to this law,” he added.
Data from Refinitiv shows that Aviva Investors is one of the 20 biggest shareholders in both HSBC and StanChart.
The two banks have faced pressure from both sides over their views on the law. Pro-Beijing figures including former chief executive Leung Chun-ying criticised them for being slow to speak out in backing the legislation.
Meanwhile British lawmakers strongly criticised them for taking a stance.