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Home » The Human Element » China warns global CEOs: Toe the party line on Hong Kong or else

China warns global CEOs: Toe the party line on Hong Kong or else

PortandTerminal.com, August 21, 2019

HONG KONG, CHINA – Port and terminal executives take note.

As anti-government protests in Hong Kong intensified this month, KPMG issued a directive to its employees in the city: Don’t speak on behalf of the company in public. It went on to say that the firm supports China’s policy for governing Hong Kong.

PwC, another Big Four accounting giant, sent a similar message to staff telling them to avoid disclosing anything about the company on social media platforms, according to emails seen by Bloomberg.

Don’t speak on behalf of the company in public.

KPMG directive to employees

Cathay Pacific CEO, Rupert Hogg stepped down from his role after refusing to give up the names of Cathay employees who participated in the protests to government officials

This is the new reality for multinational businesses that have long grappled with a thorny question on China: What’s the price of access to Asia’s biggest economy? Beijing’s response to the protests, most notably its clampdown on Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. this month, has provided one answer: compliance with the Communist Party’s worldview, from senior management on down.

“The Chinese government doesn’t see business as being separate from the state and it has made it clear that if you want to do business in China, you’d better toe the line,” said Steve Vickers, chief executive officer of political and corporate risk consultancy Steve Vickers & Associates, and the former head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Criminal Intelligence Bureau.

Business with China or Human Rights?

Cathay Pacific CEO, Rupert Hogg stepped down from his role after refusing to give up the names of Cathay employees who participated in the protests to government officials. Mr Hogg is widely being widely reported as a hero for his refusal to disclose employee identities to the Chinese government. His stepping down forces other CEOs to make a stark choice though. Business with China or Human Rights?

Nor are senior government officials immune to the wrath of the Chinese government if they dare mention favorably the protestors or their cause in Hong Kong.

China singled out Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Foreign Minister for an unusually personal rebuke over her comments about Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang rebuked the Canadian government, saying it ‘has made irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs repeatedly and grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs.’

China’s state media criticized Freeland for a joint statement she made with the European Union on Saturday on the mass protests in Hong Kong.

Canadian farmers, in particular, have suffered in the wake of the deteriorating relationship, with China refusing to buy some key agricultural exports from Canada. Adding to the strain are continuing mass protests in Hong Kong, where about 300,000 people hold Canadian citizenship.

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