Raymond Doherty 20 Aug 2019 04:31pm

Big Four distance themselves from Hong Kong protestor ad

A full-page newspaper ad, reportedly crowd-funded by employees of the Big Four firms in Hong Kong, has expressed support for the on-going mass protests

The advertisement, published last week in local publication Apple News, was paid for and signed by a group of anonymous employees at the firms.

According to several reports in Hong Kong, it clearly supported the pro-democracy protesters who have been demonstrating for nearly three months.

After mounting pressure from China on businesses to distance themselves from the protests, the firms have now disassociated themselves from the ad.

The protests began in opposition to an extradition bill – which has since been suspended – but have evolved into action over civil rights and freedoms under Beijing rule.

Businesses are now being forced to take a position. Last week Rupert Hogg, the chief executive of Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways, resigned after some of its employees took part in the protest. China ordered the airline to suspend staff who did so.

The Big Four employ thousands of people in Hong Kong and mainland China.

Over the past couple of days, each firm has separately released statements disassociating themselves from the ad, according to local reports.

PwC said it firmly opposed “any action and statement that challenges national sovereignty”. EY said it could not confirm the authenticity of the advert, and condemned “violence and illegal acts”.

KPMG said, “We hope that Hong Kong remains peaceful and continues to prosper as one of the world's most important international financial centres based on the rule of law and the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems.”

Deloitte distanced itself from the advert, but said it respected the rights of individuals to peacefully express their views and hoped “social order will be restored soon through mutual, peaceful dialogue and cooperation of all parties concerned”.

On Sunday more than one million people peacefully demonstrated as tensions with China continue to rise.