TL;DR: The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) issued a warning on 5 October 2019, urging residents “to use online banking or ATM services as far as possible, and check bank branches service status before visiting. We appeal to public understanding on service disruption of certain bank branches, which was necessitated by extraordinary circumstances.”
Hong Kong Monetary Authority Issues Bank Disruption Warning
Hong Kong has long been thought to be the world’s financial hub, an oasis, in Asia. And though protests months ago began as a rebellion against a proposed extradition agreement between the money centre and the mainland to its West, they quickly morphed into what some experts have called an inevitability — a violent clash to keep Hong Kong relatively free and freer even into the future.
To get the regional government’s attention regarding public unhappiness at the extradition arrangement, protesters have been talking openly about hitting political leaders where it would hurt most, the traditional banking system. This appears to be happening at some level, at times organized, at other points simply an organic outgrowth of pragmatism: get to the ATM fast before cash runs out.
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 insisted provincial leader Carrie Lam was to blame for the run on ATMs, as it was she who “said many sectors supported her decision to invoke Emergency Regulation Ordinance. She emphasises she needs to curb violent protest. #Bankruns on this unusual Saturday not because of the protests, but the way HK govt handled the crisis.”
Bank Runs All Over Hong Kong Now
Kyle Bass, Chief Investment Officer at Hayman Capital Management, characterized the situation as bank “runs all over Hong Kong now. ATM machines running out of cash but there is something more important…failed leader carrie lam(b) can now officially confiscate bank accounts and assets without recourse. The HK legal system is essentially gone.”
The popular Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) noted, “HSBC Hong Kong Office & Premier Centre, Hong Kong Office Commercial Service Centre, Mong Kok Branch & Premier Centre, Tsim Sha Tsui Branch & Premier Centre, Tsuen Wan Branch & Premier Centre and Kwun Tong Branch & Premier Centre maintain normal service while all other branches are closed on 5 October 2019. HSBC customers can use the Bank’s Internet Banking, Mobile Banking, Phone Banking or self-service banking terminals. We are sorry for the inconvenience and will provide updates on the operation of our outlets as the situation evolves.”
For its part, the Monetary Authority also revealed it “noticed today that some banks have to suspend services at certain branches due to vandalised facilities and traffic disruptions,” citing how “incidents of vandalism and arson attacks have seriously affected the use of banking services by the public.” Bitcoiners are watching events closely, especially as LocalBitcoins exchange volume (see above) has soared in recent days, leading some observers to note Hong Kongers might seek out cryptocurrency as a potential refuge in the days and weeks to come.
*Peter Ryan contributed sourcing for this article.
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