A British lawmaker said HSBC is aiding a crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong during a virtual hearing by the UK Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
"Do you understand how it might seem to a lot of British people who have bank accounts with you that you're affectively aiding and abetting one of the biggest crackdowns on democracy in the world?"
MP Chris Bryant was questioning HSBC CEO Noel Quinn over the bank's freezing of Hong Kong democrats' bank accounts.
They include former lawmaker Ted Hui, who has had his local accounts blocked.
But Quinn has told Hui in a letter that he was complying with a police request.
And the CEO told lawmakers Tuesday his bank was quote 'not in a position to judge the motives' of Hong Kong police.
"I can't cherry-pick what laws to follow and what law not to follow as the CEO of a financial institution," he said. "My motive is 100% about helping the people of Hong Kong recover from the challenges that they face and I have to work within the legal framework that I'm given in Hong Kong to do that."
When pressed by lawmakers whether HSBC would ever deny police requests on ethical grounds, Quinn said he was not considering this in Hong Kong.
"I can't cherry-pick what laws to follow and what law not to follow as the CEO of a financial institution "
The grilling from British lawmakers saw HSBC yet again dragged into the political battle between Hong Kong's pro-Beijing and democratic factions.
Founded in the Asian city but headquartered in Britain, HSBC has historically tried to remain politically neutral.
Recently however it has shown support for Beijing.
Most notably last June when its top executive in Asia signed a petition supporting a sweeping national security law, imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong.