U.S. lawmakers slam Wall Street bankers' plan to attend Hong Kong summit

WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) – Two U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged top American bankers to cancel their planned attendance at a Hong Kong financial summit next week, saying their participation would contribute to Chinese government rights abuses.

The heads of some of the world’s top banks and asset managers, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) CEO David Solomon, Morgan Stanley (MS.N) boss James Gorman and BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) President Rob Kapito, are scheduled to attend the Chinese city’s Nov. 2 Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit.

Hong Kong officials hope the event will signal a re-opening from COVID-19 border restrictions, but it has raised the ire of Hong Kong activists after authorities used a national security law to stifle dissent in the former British colony.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Jim McGovern, both Democrats, said the executives should “reconsider” their attendance, which “makes them complicit” in human rights abuses by Chinese and Hong Kong authorities, and efforts to export an illiberal world order.

“Their presence only serves to legitimize the swift dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy, free press, and the rule of law by Hong Kong authorities acting along with the Chinese Communist Party,” said the lawmakers, who lead the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

It would also give “political cover” to Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, who has been placed under U.S. sanctions and has refused to cooperate with U.S. sanctions on Russian assets, they said in a statement.

They warned that it would be “a pertinent congressional concern if expanded investments in authoritarian governments undermine U.S. national interests and accelerate efforts to crush Hong Kong’s autonomy and the freedoms of its residents.”

The State Department last year warned U.S. businesses of civil and criminal penalties should they violate U.S. sanctions by “engaging in certain transactions” with sanctioned Hong Kong and Chinese officials.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese from British rule in 1997 with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy, which critics say Beijing has significantly eroded.

Rights groups say Hong Kong police arrested over 10,000 people involved in mass pro-democracy protests in 2019 under a sweeping national security law that U.S. officials have said threatened the territory’s role as an international business hub. read more

More than 1,000 of those arrested have been jailed, rights groups say.

Republicans, who hope to win control of Congress in November midterm elections, have also slammed executives for their plans to attend the Hong Kong event.

“Examining U.S. corporate complicity in China’s repression will be a top oversight item in the next Congress,” Representative Chris Smith said earlier this month.

Reporting by Michael Martina; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Mary Milliken and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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