British human rights organization Hong Kong Watch has released a research report saying the Canadian-based financial service companies Manulife and Sun Life have refused to allow thousands of Hongkongers who have migrated to the U.K. with BNO visas to withdraw their Mandatory Provident Funds (MPFs) early.
The amount involved is estimated to be CA$1.5 billion Canadian (HK$85 billion or US$1.1 billion).
Another survey also pointed out that among respondents currently living in the U.K. or Canada, Manulife and Sun Life denied over 90% of their customers’ MPF withdrawal applications. Hong Kong Watch said it suspects the financial service companies are collaborating with the Hong Kong government to block Hongkongers from withdrawing their MPFs.
MPF is a mandatory retirement savings plan or pension fund for Hong Kong residents. According to their remuneration and length of employment, the majority of employees and their employers are required to contribute monthly to fund schemes administered by approved private organizations.
Hong Kong Watch Policy and Advocacy Director Sam Goodman said on Wednesday that the situation suggested collusion between Manulife, Sun Life and the Hong Kong government to obstruct Hongkongers from accessing their funds.
Goodman urged the Canadian government to cooperate with Manulife and Sun Life to resolve the situation. He emphasized that any evidence showing that Hongkongers permanently residing abroad are being withheld their MPFs was in contravention of Manulife’s and Sun Life’s duties as MPF trustees.
According to cited cases in the report, some Hongkongers who migrated to the U.K. have been denied applications to withdraw their MPFs and others fear that even if they become British citizens, they will continue to be denied access to their funds.
Another report published by Hong Kong Watch surveyed 290 respondents currently living in the U.K. or Canada. For some 60% of these respondents’ the MPF providers are the Canada-based financial service companies Manulife and Sun Life, while over 82% of the Hongkongers who permanently moved to the U.K. or Canada and attempted to withdraw their MPF were unsuccessful.
The survey indicated that these two companies denied over 90% of their customers’ MPF withdrawal applications. The reasons given were that the “BNO visa is not a valid document,” or “It doesn’t prove residency outside of Hong Kong.”
Aileen Calverley, co-founder and trustee of “Hong Kong Watch,” met with Canadian MPs in Ottawa to discuss MPF withdrawals and other Hong Kong issues. Aileen stated that the primary focus now is to contact the Canadian financial service companies and understand the situation better.
Hong Kong Watch pointed out that anyone “intending to leave Hong Kong permanently” previously had the right to withdraw their MPFs. However, due to the unilateral declaration by the Chinese Communist Party not to recognize BNO status anymore, hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers are without access to their funds.
The Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had earlier announced the arrest of 20 people, suspected of using “fake documents and statutory declarations” to apply for early MPF withdrawals, according to another Hong Kong Watch report released on Oct. 13.
According to reports, several Hongkongers who withdrew their MPF through such means were arrested upon returning to Hong Kong during the summer holidays and had their passports confiscated and were banned from leaving the country.
Translated by Chris Taylor. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.