A lawyer and prominent pro-democracy activist employed at an international bank resigned under pressure due to comments he made on social media supporting the extradition bill protests.
Jason Ng’s departure as the head of legal affairs in BNP Paribas’ debt capital markets division, first reported by the Financial Times last night, came because of comments he wrote online earlier this month criticizing “pro-Beijing counter-protesters” who had demonstrated outside a Hong Kong mall.
“It has become clear to me that I can no longer juggle my day job and my activism work,” Ng wrote this afternoon, without naming his former employer. “If I must pick one, I will always choose the latter, and I did.”
He acknowledged sparking a “firestorm” but stood by his right to speak freely.
Calls for Ng’s dismissal had begun almost as soon as the furor erupted over his message, in which he likened pro-Beijing counterprotesters to “monkeys.”
“I predict that very soon, flag-waving communist party loyalists will be forming human chains across the city and launching their own ‘China Way’ campaign,” he wrote on Facebook. “Because plagiarism, copycats and knock-offs are kinda their thing. Monkey see, monkey do.”
Ng deleted the post but not before it had been screen-grabbed and circulated on Chinese social media sites, to predictable effect.
This is a screengrab I found online. Can't vouch for its veracity. pic.twitter.com/iyTAGDtHQd
— Wang Feng 王丰 (@ulywang) September 27, 2019
State-backed tabloid Global Times even ran a Sept. 16 article saying that netizens took offense to his labeling pro-China supporters “monkeys,” called for the bank to be boycotted, and demanded Ng be dismissed.
BNP Paribas posted a mea culpa on its website without naming Ng.
“We deeply apologize for the offense caused by a social media post that was expressed on one of our employees’ personal accounts,” the statement read.
The bank’s chairman Jean Lemierre went on TV to describe Ng’s comments as “inappropriate.”
“I know it was used at a sensitive time, but inappropriate words should not be used,” he told told CNBC broadcast. “We have made very clear that inappropriate words were not compatible with the standards of BNP Paribas.”
In his post today, Ng went on to say he would focus on his writing and continue to advocate for migrant workers, asylum seekers, free expression, rule of law and the pro-democracy movement.
A recent post on my personal Facebook page has stirred up a firestorm on mainland Chinese social media…
Ng is a prominent pro-democracy activist who’s written numerous books and articles on Hong Kong politics. He’s one of the convenors for the Progressive Lawyers’ Group, a group of Hong Kong-based lawyers dedicated to promoting the rule of law and human rights. He was the inaugural president of PEN Hong Kong, the local chapter of PEN International, a century-old group founded in London to promote literature and defend free expression around the world.
Ng’s departure comes as businesses in Hong Kong come under increasing pressure from the mainland to fall in line with Beijing’s stance.
One of the biggest casualties in the fallout was CEO Rupert Hogg of Hong Kong’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific. Hogg announced he would resign following reports some of the airline’s staff supported or had been involved with the protests.
Rebecca Sy — chair of the Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Flight Attendants’ Association — revealed she was fired because of social media posts pertaining to the city’s ongoing protest movement.
Sy had been with Cathay Dragon — a regional carrier wholly owned by Cathay Pacific – for 17 years. She was called to Cathay Pacific headquarters and presented with screenshots from her private Facebook account and summarily fired.
Managers at the meeting said they couldn’t tell her why she was being let go.
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