CHINESE Prime Minister Mr Li Peng yesterday continued his tour of the Pearl River delta by starting a three-day visit to the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone. The head of the State Council arrived in Zhuhai, adjacent to Macau, after leaving Shenzhen in the morning. He spent the afternoon touring the new development zone in western Zhuhai, which has gained national fame for its aggressive method of luring investment from Hongkong and overseas. Zhuhai sources said today and tomorrow, Mr Li would visit a deep water port, a railway terminus and the new Sanzhao Airport, which are key infrastructure projects in the zone. The premier also was expected to visit hi-tech factories and do some sightseeing while in Zhuhai. Zhuhai sources said last night at a time when the central government was taking steps to cool down the economy, Mr Li was giving assurance to officials along the coast that they enjoyed Beijing's backing. ''Li Peng is trying to portray himself as a reformist by following in the footsteps taken by Deng Xiaoping in January 1992,'' a source said. During Mr Deng's tour of Guangdong, Mr Deng first visited Shenzhen, and went on to Zhuhai. Before leaving Shenzhen, Mr Li and his entourage toured the new Shenzhen Securities Exchange Building. The trading floor, re-located to the Shenzhen Grand Theatre two days ago, was right in front of the giant billboard of senior leader Mr Deng, with inscriptions warning if China fails to introduce reform, there is only a ''blind alley'' ahead. Hundreds of uniformed and plain-clothes policemen were stationed on the route to the theatre and around the building, keeping all spectators at a distance. Stock traders said Mr Li, accompanied by senior Guangdong and Shenzhen officials, stayed on the trading floor for about 15 minutes to officiate at the opening of yesterday's trading. After Mr Li rang the bell to signal the beginning of trading, the floor immediately broke into applause. Mr Li observed the operation of the exchange for a while and left, without delivering a formal speech. In a despatch last night, the semi-official China News Service quoted Mr Li as asking Shenzhen officials about the prices of various local stocks and whether operations in the bourse were computerised. ''Now it seems the Hongkong stock index is 5,000-odd points and in Shanghai it is 700-odd, is it right?'' CNS quoted the premier as asking. Local officials, including Shenzhen party secretary Mr Li Hao and Mayor Mr Li Youwei, briefed Mr Li on the development and future plans of the bourse. Shenzhen sources said Mr Li told officials while securities had to be developed, the interests of investors also needed to be protected. However, Mr Li's visit to the Shenzhen Securities Exchange failed to push up the market. The Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia Shenzhen (CLSA) A Index yesterday recorded a loss of 0.05 per cent at 2,351 points, 1.28 points lower than the closing index of the previous day. The CLSA Shenzhen B Index witnessed a bigger loss of 1.1 per cent, at 1,067.56, despite an improved turnover. Shortly after the group left, a Shenzhen stock buyer asked reporters outside the nearby Shenzhen International Trust and Investment Company: ''Did you see him smile? ''If he is shown smiling in front of the cameras, it will be a symbolic gesture that he is supportive of the Securities Exchange. The market will react favourably.'' Commenting on Mr Li's visit to Shenzhen, the city's government spokesman Mr Huang Xinhua said yesterday the tour would give new impetus to the special economic zone's new reform and opening up initiatives.