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16 Aug, 2019 14:58

Hong Kong banks say threat of massive cash withdrawals by protesters won’t cause problems

Hong Kong banks say threat of massive cash withdrawals by protesters won’t cause problems

Banks in Hong Kong say they can cope with a sudden increase in demand for cash after reported calls by protesters to take out and convert their money to dollars in a bid to put pressure on the local authorities.

After several weeks of chaos in the streets and a shutdown of the city’s airport, the demonstrators decided to challenge the financial infrastructure of Hong Kong, one of the key international financial hubs. A post which appeared on the local version of Reddit accused Beijing of having too much influence over the banking system of the autonomous region, with the author calling on protesters to withdraw their money and convert it to US dollars or any other “reliable” foreign currency. The protesters were also reportedly asked to empty out the ATMs around the city.

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Hong Kong residents are allowed to withdraw from HK$20,000 (US$2,548) to HK$40,000 from ATMs, and foreign currencies also fall under the daily withdrawal limits, according to the South China Morning Post.

Local lenders do not see too many problems in the planned action of the protesters, with some pointing out that the Chinese New Year season is much worse. Bank of East Asia, DBS, OCBC Wing Hang Bank, and Hang Seng Bank have reportedly activated contingency plans and are monitoring withdrawals.

Meanwhile, the largest bank in Hong Kong and subsidiary of British multinational banking major HSBC said it “has sufficient supply of banknotes” and pledged to support its customers.

“I don’t think it will be a problem,” George Leung Siu-kay, an adviser to HSBC, Asia-Pacific said as cited by the Morning Post. The bank added that its Hong Kong dollar ATMs were “operating as normal,” but that it had to refill some of its US dollar machines earlier this week.

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One of the top 10 Hong Kong banks by total assets, OCBC Wing Hang Bank, said that Friday, when the call to action occurred, was “a normal banking day” and the bank’s ATMs functioned as usual. It had earlier ensured that all branches have sufficient amounts of cash.

Earlier this week, Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the financial hub’s “solid” banking system has “adequate liquidity.”

“People have the freedom to express their views, but [that] should not affect [how] the public uses the banks’ services,” he stated.

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