The 1997 handover is prompting many Hong Kong business people and academics to look into the commercial history of the territory and China, according to a university expert. Dr Lee Pui-tak, who organised an international conference on Chinese business at the University of Hong Kong, told Campus Post: 'Since 1984, the impending handover has forced companies to think about issues, such as the brain-drain, capital flow, registration and even re-location.' The conference, looking at the rise of business corporations in China, from the Ming dynasty to the present, attracted more than 30 international scholars who discussed topics including business networks in China and links between Hong Kong and the mainland. Dr Lee, a research officer at the university's Centre of Asian Studies, said: 'In so doing, they have to examine their company standpoint in the past and in the future. Some local companies are combining their old files to compile company history books.' He said research so far had been limited but studies had focused on the history of various commercial activities. 'Looking from a historical point of view, there has not been enough local research in this area, but the situation has improved in recent years. Several Hong Kong-based British enterprises have undertaken studies of their history,' he said. Many companies now compiled anniversary books, but a lot did not want to disclose too much information which might be commercially sensitive. 'This is one of the largest hindrances for the development of business history studies in Hong Kong.' Dr Lee said the study of business history helped society understand its economy and culture. He said it had been popular in Europe and the United States for more than a century but had not yet caught on in China. 'China's civil war and battles against the Japanese before 1949 did not provide a stable environment to foster study of business history. After that time, China's Marxist thinking dominated the academic world, which quite overlooked the study too,' he said. The study of the history of commerce in Hong Kong was still young and the publications produced were not in any standard format. Dr Lee has received $540,000 from the Research Grants Council to study changes in Hong Kong's business world between 1840 and 1940.