Community groups hold protest in San Francisco Chinatown

Posted on August 23, 2012

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NAAC President/CEO Faith Bautista talks about the need for ICBC to follow the guidelines of the Community Reinvestment Act and Dodd-Frank Reform Bill during a protest action by community groups in front of the Bank of East Asia (USA), N.A. office in Chinatown in San Francisco, CA. AJPress photo by Joseph Peralta

SAN FRANCISCO — Community organizations representing different minority groups in the United States held a protest in front of the Bank of East Asia (USA), N.A., whose majority shareholder is Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which is alleged to be behind the direct and indirect financing of aggressive Chinese military action in the South China Sea.

Headed by the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC), the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), the Black Economic Council, and members representing the different Asian nations affected by China’s actions in the South China Sea, the organizations also cited the banks alleged discriminatory practices when it comes to hiring employees and the disbursement of loans to non-Chinese.

According to the NAAC President and CEO Faith Bautista, Bank of East Asia is in violation of the Federal Reserve’s Community Reinvestment Act and the Dodd-Frank Reform Bill. The NAAC has expressed concern about ICBC’s interest in acquiring the two largest Chinese banks in the US – East West Bank and Cathay Bank – which was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Representatives of different groups spoke to encourage ICBC to become more involved in the community, and not just cater to a specific group in the US, and to curb the aggressive military actions by the Chinese military in the South China Sea.

Dr. J. Alfred Smith, speaking on behalf of the African American community, said “we are not here to exacerbate any conflicts already present…here is an opportunity for the largest bank in China to provide jobs for all. America is not just Blacks, not just Filipinos, not just Latinos…it is a melting pot of all nations. We encourage ICBC to become a part of the rich rainbow family. If you come here and support us, we will also support you.”

Charito Benipayo, representing the USP4GG said, “Scarborough Shoal belongs to the Philippines. It is only 194 nautical miles from the Philippines, while China is about 500 nautical miles away from it. ICBC is financing drilling operations in the South China Sea. This is our soil and our oil. We encourage everyone to help us… China is trying to bully small nations like the Philippines.”

Phat Bui, who came from Southern California, to join the protest said he is one of the Vietnamese Americans concerned about China’s aggressive actions towards Filipino and Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea. “Their claims on the island chain are unreasonable. We also have information that the bank is behind the financing of Chinese military expansion in the island chain,” he said, while clarifying that the protest is not directed at the Chinese community, but against the aggression of the Chinese military in the South China Sea.

Robert Gnaizda, Of Counsel for NAAC, said the protest “represents a historic moment in time when Blacks, Latinos and Asians have come together to try to make ICBC a good dragon.” He also disclosed that the NAAC and the Black Economic Council were presenting petitions to the Federal Reserve, and both groups will try to set a meeting with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee regarding this issue when they get back from their September meeting with Federal Reserve officials in Washington, DC.

Bautista stated that “ICBC should serve not only the Chinese but all races in America. It needs to follow the reinvestment act and the bank should give loans to everyone. It should hire people of other ethnicity. Its management and Board of Directors should be diverse and the bank should cater all Americans.”

For its part, Bank of East Asia (USA), N.A. Executive Vice President and Head of California Region Michael Lai told media that they do not discriminate against anyone and that they are open to opportunities to participate in events put up by other ethnic communities.

“We accept anybody who walks into the bank. We never discriminate. We do have other customers in the bank and we also non-Chinese employees,” he said, although he declined to give specific numbers.

He also said that their bank’s report card is outstanding, but he conceded that “there is always something more than we can do. But the community needs to come to us and let us know.” He added that they do participate in events when the opportunity arises.

Lai distributed a handout to media present where the bank clarified that “although the Chinese government indirectly hold a majority of its shares of stock, it does not intervene in the day-to-day operations of ICBC, and ICBC runs its business on a sound commercial banking basis.”

It clarified that “the alleged military action by China in the South China Sea belongs to the realm of international politics and country-to-country relations. Ours is an American community bank dedicated to serving the community in which it operates. We believe that politics and business should be separate and should not be mixed up.”

The handout also stated that Bank of East Asia (USA), N.A. received an “outstanding” rating at its most recent Community Reinvestment Act performance evaluation by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currenty (OCC) and an “outstanding” rating under each of the lending and community development tests, which is the highest possible rating.

It further stated that although ICBC became a majority shareholder recently of the Bank of East Asia (USA), N.A., it did not change any of the hiring and credit policies of the bank, the media handout stated. And even if the bank’s 13 branches are located in predominantly Chinese American communities in New York and California, it is open to all qualified applicants, regardless of ethnic, racial and other backgrounds.

ICBC, the handout said, intends to maintain the Bank of East Asia (USA), N.A.’s existing business and is prepared to expand offerings for the bank’s customers in the future. Bank of East Asia and its shareholders, it added, look forward to working with community organizations to accomplish this goal.

Asian Journal

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