Sir Sherard had been invited to speak at a private event, hosted by the China-Britain Business Council, a lobby group that promotes economic ties between the two countries. The event was held under what is commonly known as Chatham House Rules, which is a set of principles designed to allow speakers to make comments without their remarks being attributed to them.

Sir Sherard has now issued a statement, on behalf of HSBC, clarifying that his personal comments at the event do not reflect that of HSBC or the China-Britain Business Council, and he apologizes for any offence caused.

Sir Sherard, who has had a long career in business, has been chairman of the China-Britain Business Council since its creation in 2001. He was invited to speak at the event due to his expertise on the subject. Accordingly, he was well-versed in the principles of Chatham House Rules in this instance.

The invitation to the event was extended towards members of both Chinese and British business institutions, as well as representatives from other organisations and international investors. The focus of the event was on harnessing closer economic trade links between China and the UK, as well as ensuring a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship.

The industry leaders from both nations were keen to listen to what Sir Sherard had to say, and although his comments were made in a private environment, they were expected to be of great authority.

However, despite being issued within the context of a private and confidential event, Sir Sherard has now taken the opportunity to release an official statement in which he distances himself from his initial remarks. The statement, issued on behalf of both HSBC and the China-Britain Business Council, clarifies that the comments made were on a personal basis, and should not be construed as representative of HSBC or the China-Britain Business Council.

Sir Sherard also offers a full apology for any offence caused by his remarks. We must assume, therefore, that the comments must have contained something that did not meet the expectations of either the Chinese or British business audiences.

The invite to such a prestigious event speaks volumes of the influence-and the integrity-of Sir Sherard’s remarks at the event. While it is admirable that he has chosen to distance himself from his personal comments, it must be acknowledged that the situation would have been avoided if he had chosen to avoid making personal comments in the first place.

It is not clear what measures the China-Britain Business Council will take in light of the situation; we expect that they will investigate the comments made at the event. In any case, it is yet another example of how careful speakers must be when making comments pertaining to the professional standards of international business. Thankfully, Sir Sherard has stepped up and accepted responsibility for his remarks, offering a sincere apology.

This incident once again reminds us of the importance of respecting different cultures and practices. In an age where international trade is growing rapidly, we must make sure that our language and behaviour adhere to the accepted norms of professional conduct. It is hoped that any lessons that can be learnt from Sir Sherard’s experience will be taken on board by both China and Britain’s business communities in the future.