Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei says that HSBC has turned down his request to open a bank account in Hong Kong.

“I’m in Hong Kong, trying to open an account at HSBC,” wrote Ai on Instagram on Tuesday. “My request was refused due to a ‘commercial decision’ from the bank’s headquarters.”

Ai Weiwei. Photo: Instagram.

The activist, who was detained for 81 days in 2011, said that he had never experienced a similar incident in his hometown of Beijing.

“Maybe ‘One Country, One System’ is better,” he added – in reference to Hong Kong’s One Country, Two Systems policy of autonomy from mainland China.

No ‘political considerations’

A spokesperson from HSBC did not comment specifically on Ai’s case, but told HKFP that “the bank will not refuse to open accounts out of political considerations.”

Global banks including HSBC have received numerous penalties from financial regulators over the past few years for insufficient anti-money laundering controls – including failures to verify sources of wealth. Many employ commercial databases to assess the risks of politically-sensitive customers.

See also: Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to build fences in New York

It is not the first time that Hong Kong banks have been accused of blocking accounts or financial transactions involving dissidents or opposition figures, however.

The HSBC building in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikicommons.

In February, the Bank of China closed the account of Hong Kong’s localist Youngspiration party. The personal account of the party’s ousted lawmaker Baggio Leung was also frozen by HSBC.

Last April, democracy activist Joshua Wong said that HSBC refused to open accounts for his party, Demosisto.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.