China Economy

Economist tells newspaper he was forced out from Chinese bank because he's a Hong Konger

Key Points
  • Law Ka-chung stepped down as chief economist at the Hong Kong unit of a Chinese state-owned bank and has alleged he was forced to do so because he is a native of Hong Kong, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
  • "They don't think it's appropriate for a Hong Kong guy to speak on behalf of a Chinese bank," Law told the newspaper, in his first interview with an international English-language media organization since being asked to resign.
  • The Bank of Communications did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.
Buildings along Victoria Harbor at night in Hong Kong, on April 29, 2019.
Justin Chin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Law Ka-chung stepped down as chief economist at the Hong Kong unit of a Chinese state-owned bank and has alleged he was forced to do so because he is a native of Hong Kong, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Law spent 14 years at the Bank of Communications before being forced to resign in October, the article said.

"They don't think it's appropriate for a Hong Kong guy to speak on behalf of a Chinese bank," Law told the newspaper. The report noted it was his first interview with an international English-language media organization since being asked to resign.

The Bank of Communications did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

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What is Hong Kong's relationship with China?

The former economist told the newspaper the bank has become less lenient about comments made to the media.

Law told the Financial Times that management was especially displeased with remarks he made in a local radio interview, in which he said the SARS outbreak in 2003 had a bigger economic impact on Hong Kong than the anti-government protests have.

The city's leader Carrie Lam, who has Beijing's public support, has said the opposite, that the protests hit the economy worse than the epidemic.

Largely peaceful protests that began in early June over a controversial extradition bill have turned increasingly violent in the months since, intermittently forcing public transportation, schools and government offices to close.

The region's economy contracted 3.2% in the third quarter, entering a technical recession for the first time since the global financial crisis. In October, retail sales in Hong Kong fell 24.3% from a year earlier, the worst on record and marking a ninth-straight month of decline.

Read the Financial Times story here.