Rampant counterfeiting, a closed society, and smuggling and tax-evasion scandals keep most overseas-based investors away from Shantou , but Hong Kong businessman Roger Lau Kwan-ming is determined to change the image of his ancestral hometown. 'Only the older folks are willing to put money into the city, so if young people like me don't come, the foreigners won't come either,' Mr Lau said during a visit to the Guangdong city with Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. In an attempt to raise the profile of Shantou as an international city, the chief executive officer of Regency Loyal Group Holdings is building an exclusive social club for executives called the World Trade Centre Club. Mr Lau said that Shantou people are quite insular and have even been known to discriminate against people from other cities who speak the same dialect. He hopes that exposure to the international community can change this attitude. 'People still ask you if you are from Shantou or Jieyang or Chaozhou . All this has to change. More people should come and put pressure on them to change their culture.' But Mr Lau is fighting against the odds. The 'made in Shantou' label still has many negative connotations and hundreds of foreign-invested companies withdrew their investments before current mayor Huang Zhiguang took over. Mr Huang's arrival may mark a new era for Shantou - one diplomat noted that he had implemented many pro-business initiatives since taking up the post two years ago, including rezoning the city into urban and industrial areas. He also co-ordinated a mission to Hong Kong that rekindled the interest of Shantou natives living there. Mr Huang also visited Taiwan with former party secretary Li Tongshu to promote tourism. 'Maybe there will be more change in Shantou, with more planning and more bona-fide business,' the diplomat said. But with five party secretaries in 10 years, sceptics point out that frequent leadership changes make investors uneasy. Although there are currently not enough foreigners in Shantou to support the World Trade Centre Club, which will open in April or May, Mr Lau said there were many wealthy local people who could afford an executive lifestyle. 'When you do business in Shantou, you've got to be innovative. Give them something different and they are willing to spend,' said Mr Lau, adding he expected wealthy local residents to account for 70 per cent of his clientele. Shantou is also finding support from the Guangdong government, which realises that the province's economic development cannot be sustained purely by the cities in the Pearl River Delta region that are already booming.