The Square Mile’s governing body has been criticised for failing to speak out about China’s crackdown on Hong Kong democracy campaigners due to fears over the impact on HSBC.
The City of London Corporation was asked by one of its councillors to state that Hong Kong citizens and asylum seekers are “always welcome in the City of London”.
Catherine McGuinness, chairman of the policy and resources committee, declined on Thursday – saying the corporation would not usually make a foreign policy statement without a “strong, direct” reason, and that its role was to support the City’s financial and professional services.
She went on: “China is an important market for UK financial and related professional services. Britain’s biggest bank, HSBC, makes 80pc of its profits in China, and there are around 40 top tier Chinese financial institutions based in London employing around 4,000 people... It’s therefore important that we continue to engage with China on the basis of global standards.”
Graeme Harrower, councillor for Bassishaw ward, questioned the corporation’s stance, saying: “If a significant British company made 80pc of its profits in Nazi Germany in 1938 and that country had 40 companies here employing around 4,000 people, would that have justified the City corporation ‘engaging’ with Nazi Germany while ignoring events like Kristallnacht?”
The Corporation also faced criticism last year after refusing Taiwan permission to take part in the Lord Mayor's Show celebrating the inauguration of the head of the Corporation. The Taiwan Visitors Association, a non-profit, has applied to take part this year.
Anthony Browne MP, a member of the Sino-sceptic China Research Group, said the corporation needed to show “they are not bowing to political pressure from China” over the event. A spokesman for the Lord Mayor’s Show said: “It is not a political event. It is a family-orientated day out.”