HSBC Exec Apologizes For Linking Slavery And HK Protests

A member of HSBC's board of directors has been heavily criticized after comparing residents of Hong Kong to emancipated slaves in regard to voting.

HSBC Exec Apologizes For Linking Slavery And HK Protests
Getty Images / Andrew Burton

A member of banking giant HSBC's board of directors has come under fire for some pretty insensitive comments she made comparing residents of Hong Kong to emancipated slaves.

According to The Standard, Laura Cha said in a meeting Thursday, "American slaves were liberated in 1861 but did not get voting rights until 107 years later, so why can't Hong Kong wait for a while?"

Cha was referring to groups of young professionals and students who have been protesting since late September for a more democratic election process in Hong Kong, as part of the Occupy Central movement. (Video via RT)

A central goal of the movement has been to allow universal suffrage for the election of the region's Chief Executive in 2017. The protests have turned violent at times, and protesters have been beaten and pepper-sprayed by police. (Video via NBC)

A petition has been signed more than 6,000 times to force HSBC to make a statement denouncing Cha's remarks and to educate her on the American Civil Rights Movement.

Cha has apologized for her comments, saying she did not mean to disrespect or offend anyone. Rather, she wanted to make the point that every country's path to democracy evolves differently based on its history.

But Bloomberg reports HSBC has remained silent on the matter. Peter Wong, the bank's Asia Pacific chief executive, said he would follow company policy and not comment on political issues. The bank also refused to comment on the Occupy Central movement.

Cha's comments came right after Hong Kong's current Chief Executive made a huge gaffe of his own.

CY Leung said in an interview last week that democratic elections would give too much power to low-income citizens by forcing politicians to listen to less wealthy voters.

Leung's comments were even more insulting considering nearly one in five residents of Hong Kong live below the poverty line, according to the charity Feeding Hong Kong.

And as a general disclaimer, Cha has her American history confused. Slavery was abolished in the U.S. in 1865, not 1861.

This video contains images from World Economic Forum / Remy Steinegger / CC BY SA 2.0