SINGAPORE—China has called on its biggest state firms to take a more active role in Hong Kong, including stepping up investment and asserting more control of companies in the financial hub, executives familiar with the matter said, as Beijing attempts to calm months of unrest in the city.
At a meeting this week in Shenzhen, the city bordering Hong Kong, senior representatives from nearly 100 of China’s largest state-run companies were urged to do their part to help cool China’s biggest political crisis in years, three executives, including one who was present, told Reuters.
At the meeting, the SOEs pledged to invest more in key Hong Kong industries including real estate and tourism in a bid to create jobs for local citizens and stabilize financial markets, two of the executives said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. No specific investments were discussed or agreed upon, they said.
The state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in attendance included oil giant Sinopec and conglomerate China Merchants Group, one of the sources said.
The meeting was organized by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), the powerful central body that oversees China’s sprawling state sector, which includes some of the world’s biggest companies in industries such as steel, energy, shipping and telecoms.
SASAC did not respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters. Officials at Sinopec and China Merchants Group did not respond to emailed requests for comment and calls to the two companies went unanswered.
Instead of simply holding stakes in Hong Kong companies, the Chinese SOEs were also urged to look to control companies and have decision-making power in them, one of the people familiar with the meeting said.
“The business elites in Hong Kong are certainly not doing enough. Most of them are just not one of us,” the SOE executive who was at the meeting told Reuters.
SASAC’s Communist Party chief, Hao Peng, appeared in Hong Kong on Dec. 25 at a forum for the “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road) infrastructure initiative and said that SOEs were looking for ways to cooperate in major projects in the city, according to a SASAC news release.
Hao, who was accompanied by a group of SOE executives, also met with Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive.
While China’s big state firms are for-profit enterprises and many are publicly traded, they have long been expected to do national service, including maintaining high levels of employment and helping Beijing execute initiatives such as its OBOR infrastructure plan.