US lawmakers on Thursday asked executives of major banks to reconsider attendance at a major conference next week in Hong Kong, saying their presence legitimises China’s clampdown in the city.

A protest projection in New York’s financial district on Thursday. Photo: CFHKF.

Heads of some 30 big financial institutions are expected for the conference in Hong Kong, which is keen to show it is open for business after isolation under one of the world’s strictest Covid policies.

But the event also comes after China cracked down during the pandemic on the city’s pro-democracy movement, arresting activists and effectively shutting down independent media after imposing a draconian national security law in 2020.

“Business as usual in Hong Kong is the wrong choice for these companies,” said Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Jim McGovern, Democrats who head the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which assesses human rights.

“Their presence only serves to legitimize the swift dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy, free press and the rule of law by Hong Kong authorities acting along with the Chinese Communist Party,” they said in a statement.

The lawmakers warned US financial executives they could draw “pertinent congressional concern” if they expand investments that further harm Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The lawmakers also accused Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader, John Lee, of refusing to cooperate with US-led sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The event will include panel talks featuring the CEOs of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup.

Top executives from HSBC, Standard Chartered, JPMorgan Chase and BlackRock will also attend.

China promised to allow a separate system in Hong Kong before Britain returned the territory in 1997 but President Xi Jinping has solidified control after massive and sometimes violent protests against Beijing’s role.

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