Big Four respond to pressure over pro-Hong Kong protest advert

20 August 2019 Consultancy.asia

The Big Four in Hong Kong have been forced to respond to a local media advert in support of anti-government protests placed by those claiming to be members of staff.

The Big Four in Hong Kong have each issued a press statement after coming under fire from Chinese state media for a full-page advert appearing in Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper on Friday in support of anti-government protests – placed by those claiming to be employees at the accounting and consulting firms who were critical of comments made by senior executives denouncing the protestors.

While issued separately, the individual statements from the Big Four appeared to have some degree of coordination, with overlapping language and consistent points – namely that the advert (its authenticity as yet verified) was not reflective of the firms’ positions. Each of the Big Four also condemned violence and illegal activities while reiterating support for the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle.

“EY is aware of a public statement published in a local newspaper today by an anonymous group of people who purport to be employees of the Big Four accounting firms in Hong Kong,” said the firm. “We cannot confirm its authenticity. EY does not share the views expressed in the statement and strongly condemns the violence and illegal acts that have taken place in recent weeks throughout the city.”

Big Four respond to pressure over pro-Hong Kong protest advert

Meanwhile; “Deloitte is aware of a statement issued by a group of people claiming to represent employees of the Big Four firms in Hong Kong. While we cannot verify the source of the statement and we respect the right of individuals to peacefully express their views, we want to clarify that this statement does not represent the views of the firm. We do not condone any form of violent or illegal behavior.”

“In response to an advertisement in Hong Kong by a group of unnamed individuals claiming to be employees of the Big Four accounting firms, PwC emphasises that the advertisement does not represent the firm’s position,” PwC said in its own statement. “We firmly oppose any action and statements that challenge national sovereignty. We condemn all violent and illegal activities, and misleading statements.”

The latter, PwC, had already drawn the ire of online Chinese nationalists for what they perceived as an initial weak response to the protests, with the firm quoted as saying it respects the “people's right to freedom of speech” in a piece published by the pro-government English-language tabloid Global Times – which has led the latest round of pressure on the Big Four firms. And it may not be ready to give up.

Despite having distanced themselves from the advert, Global Times followed up with another report on demands the firms take greater action, quoting Wang Jun, Chief Economist at Zhongyuan Bank, that the Big Four remain under suspicion for tolerating the behaviour. “They made no mention of what they would do to these people,” Wang said. “Statements like these are far from persuasive.”  


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