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BNP Paribas lawyer leaves bank after supporting HK protests

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A lawyer working for BNP Paribas in Hong Kong has left the French bank after he posted comments on social media in support of protests in the city, provoking a furious response from Beijing.

Jason Ng, who was in charge of legal affairs in the bank’s debt capital markets division in Hong Kong, left BNP Paribas earlier this month, according to two people familiar with the matter.

It is unclear whether Mr Ng left the bank of his own volition. Mr Ng declined to comment when contacted by phone by the Financial Times. BNP Paribas also declined to comment.

His departure comes as companies operating in Hong Kong scramble to respond to pressure from Beijing, which is pushing them to take a hard line against employees that participate in or support protests in the territory.

Hong Kong’s anti-government protests, which were sparked by an unpopular extradition bill, are halfway through their fourth month, with major new demonstrations expected to mark China’s national day on Tuesday.

Mr Ng’s departure followed a comment he posted on his Facebook profile in which he criticised “pro-Beijing counter-protesters” that staged a demonstration outside the IFC Mall in Hong Kong.

“Very soon, flag waving communist party loyalists will be forming human chains across the city and launching their own ‘China Way’ campaign . . . Monkey see, monkey do,” Mr Ng wrote in the post, which was uploaded to his personal Facebook profile in early September.

The post was subsequently deleted, although screen grabs of the comments were widely circulated on Chinese social media sites including Weibo.

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Mr Ng’s comments prompted outrage in China. The Global Times, the state-run tabloid news outlet, reported that Mr Ng had described the counter-protesters as “monkeys” and demanded that he be dismissed from the bank.

The Global Times also reported that Chinese internet users had called for a boycott of BNP Paribas and campaigned for the company to be placed on the country’s forthcoming “unreliable entity list”.

Earlier this month, BNP Paribas apologised “deeply . . . for the offence caused” by Mr Ng’s Facebook post and said “the views expressed . . . do not reflect the views of [the bank].” The bank said it had “spoken” to Mr Ng and “taken immediate action regarding this matter” but did not elaborate.

In an interview with CNBC earlier this week, Jean Lemierre, chairman of BNP Paribas, said that Mr Ng’s “inappropriate words were not compatible with the standards of the bank”.

“This is not the way bankers should behave”, Mr Lemierre said, adding that “sensitive times” in Hong Kong meant “everybody has to take into account the values used especially when you are in an industry which is based on trust and respect”.

Mr Ng’s LinkedIn profile currently describes him as a “bestselling author and news columnist” and lists his occupation as an adjunct associate professor on the law faculty at the University of Hong Kong. It makes no mention of his career at BNP Paribas although the bank is listed under the “interests” section of his profile.

According to profile of Mr Ng on the website of White & Case, a law firm where he used to work, he joined BNP Paribas in 2007 and was promoted in 2010.

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Mr Ng does not appear to have hidden his support for the Hong Kong protests. In his capacity as convener of the Progressive Lawyers Group in Hong Kong, he has given several interviews to international news outlets in which he defended the protest movement.

Mr Ng’s departure from BNP Paribas follows UBS’s decision to suspend one of its top economists in June, after he made remarks relating to a bout of swine fever in China.

Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, suggested that the outbreak of the disease was only of concern “if you are a Chinese pig”, prompting a rival bank in China and some news outlets to falsely claim that his tongue-in-cheek remarks were racist.

The chief executive and chairman of Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong-based airline, also resigned recently following complaints from Beijing, which was furious over the involvement of several of the company’s staff in the protests.

With reporting by Daniel Shane and Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong

Via Financial Times

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