HSBC Headquarter's Lions
1st Jan 2020
The lion sculpture outside HSBC Headquarters was paint-splattered and set alight during the New Year’s Day Protest. The graffiti at the back says: "70 million (HKD)”, which was the amount of money in a corporate banking account that is said to be linked to Spark Alliance HK, which raises money from crowdfunding to support protests since 2016. This account was closed in November 2019 because "the account has not been used for its stated purpose", HSBC claimed. Yet before Spark Alliance could withdraw the fund, four members were arrested by the police and charged with money-laundering, and HSBC was ordered to refuse to cash any cashier cheque from their account. Protesters became infuriated by this unjust act collaborated between the police-government and the bank, and they vandalised a few branches of HSBC, including the lions of the Headquarters.
HSBC itself grew from colonialism and international narcotic trade—it was founded by a Scottish merchant in the then-British colony of Hong Kong in 1865, and in Shanghai a month later, five years after the second Opium War, benefiting mainly from opium trade (see https://mondediplo.com/2010/02/04hsbc). Before the founding of HSBC, two Opium Wars between China and Western powers had taken place. The consumption of opium caused millions of deaths in China in 19th century, and eventually led to the Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860) in which the defeat compelled the Qing government to grant favourable tariffs, trade concessions, and territory to Western imperial powers—Hong Kong was ceded to the British in 1842 after the first Opium War. When PRC negotiated with Britain about Hong Kong’s “hand-over” in 1984, Hong Kong people did not have a say.
It is worth noting that the establishment of modern capitalist states in the West is deeply related to the wealth accumulated by the Western empires during the opium trade 200 years ago (see https://bit.ly/3eYJPxW).
Let’s return to the ablaze lions. The lions of HSBC were looted by Japanese army in 1942 during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in WWII in order to make arms. Luckily they were spared of the fire and shipped back to Hong Kong after the war, with some bullet holes in their bodies. But on the first day of 2020, the lion did not escape the fire.
Finally, an important note: the financial industry is symbiotic with the real estate industry in Hong Kong—these two monsters join hands with each other to push the house prices up to the level that is unaffordable for most people in Hong Kong, aggravating inequality in the society (see https://reut.rs/30dYd0W). It is said that the banking industry in Hong Kong has become the money laundering haven for the rich from China (see https://reut.rs/30rEc7f).