China warns Apple against ‘reckless’ support of HK protesters

“Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision,” a Chinese opinion piece said. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 October 2019

China warns Apple against ‘reckless’ support of HK protesters

  • China tolerates no dissent on the highly sensitive issue and has increasingly targeted foreign companies
  • Hong Kong has endured nearly four months of protests triggered by a now-scraped extradition bill

BEIJING: China’s state media accused Apple Wednesday of supporting pro-democracy protesters, warning the US tech giant would suffer consequences for its “unwise and reckless” decision, in an echo of campaigns against other Western firms.
An opinion piece in the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, highlighted a transport app available on Apple’s store that it alleged helped protesters identify police in Hong Kong.
“Apple’s approval for the app obviously helps rioters,” the article said.
“Does this mean Apple intended to be an accomplice to the rioters?“
The article then cautioned that: “The map app is just the tip of the iceberg.”
It alleged that a song advocating “Hong Kong independence” had appeared on the “Apple Music Store” in the southern Chinese city, then issued an ominous warning.
“Nobody wants to drag Apple into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong. But people have reason to assume that Apple is mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts,” it said.
“Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision,” the article said.
As with other campaigns led by state-run press against foreign firms for perceived support of the democracy movement in Hong Kong, comments on China’s strictly controlled Internet echoed those of the media.
“It definitely wasn’t an accident that Apple allowed HKmap.live online,” wrote one commentator on Weibo.
“(Apple) should know exactly what it’s doing... It seems that there is too little domestic pressure against Apple.”
Apple, which has a huge presence in China, did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.
Hong Kong has endured nearly four months of protests that were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to the mainland.
They snowballed into a movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability, in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of Hong Kong since its handover from the British in 1997.
China tolerates no dissent on the highly sensitive issue and has in recent weeks increasingly targeted foreign companies and organizations for perceived support of the protesters.
The American National Basketball Association was this week targeted after the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, posted a tweet supporting the protesters.
US jewelry brand Tiffany and Hong Kong’s flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, have also been heavily criticized in China.


Founder of troubled Metro Bank steps down early as chairman

Updated 23 October 2019

Founder of troubled Metro Bank steps down early as chairman

  • Board member Michael Snyder will be interim chairman until a permanent successor is appointed
  • US entrepreneur Hill, who launched Metro Bank almost a decade ago, has agreed to accept the honorary position of emeritus chairman

LONDON: Vernon Hill, the founder of Metro Bank, has stepped down as chairman two months early, as the British lender continues its battle to recover from an accounting scandal.

US entrepreneur Hill, who launched Metro Bank almost a decade ago, has agreed to accept the honorary position of emeritus chairman and will remain a non-executive director of the bank until Dec. 31, the bank said on Wednesday.

Board member Michael Snyder will be interim chairman until a permanent successor is appointed, subject to regulatory approval.

News of Hill’s exit follows a near-catastrophic year for Metro after it disclosed a major accounting error that had under-reported its exposure to higher-risk loans by almost 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion).

The bank, famed for its glossy branch network and unconventional customer perks including pet treats and weekend opening hours, was later forced to raise capital at expensive rates to plug the gap in its balance sheet.

It is due to report third quarter results later on Wednesday.

British regulators have yet to take any action against Metro or its management team for the January accounting error but the lender has warned that possible penalties could be substantial and could lead to criminal investigations.

Metro had said in July that Hill, who regularly referred to the bank’s customers as ‘fans’, would step down from his role after a permanent replacement had been found.

The bank did not say why that plan had changed, but a spokeswoman said the decision was entirely Hill’s and was not linked to the ongoing regulatory probes.

“The Board thanks Vernon for his vision which inspired and created Metro Bank ten years ago. He leaves a lasting legacy of creating fans through exceptional customer service and has revolutionized British banking,” Snyder said in a statement.

While customers warmed to his publicity shots starring pet dog Duffy, Hill endured a fractious relationship with some investors, both before and after the accounting error.

Metro originally claimed it had discovered the mistake before later admitting the Prudential Regulation Authority had uncovered the error first, leading to a crisis of confidence over the quality of the bank’s corporate governance.

Some investors also raised concerns about Hill’s lack of independence and questioned payments made to his wife’s architecture firm, which Metro later said would be phased out.

But he survived two threatened rebellions over his chairmanship and the bank’s shares, which have shed almost 90 percent this year, were broadly flat in response to the news.