The central government is expected to raise the financial hurdle for individuals wanting to buy Hong Kong stocks under the so-called 'through train' programme to prevent a flight of capital from the mainland. Beijing would substantially raise the minimum investment required and limit the pilot scheme to certain cities, two sources said yesterday. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange said on August 20 it would let individuals buy Hong Kong shares to ease the nation's record-high foreign reserves and give citizens a wider choice of investments. At present, mainland investors can buy Hong Kong stocks only through approved funds. The programme originally had been expected to go nationwide after an initial trial period in Tianjin. However, officials increasingly appear to be getting cold feet about letting wealthy mainlanders trade in Hong Kong, amid concern a flood of money into the city will spark a slump in mainland markets. Market watchers said the plans for the 'through train' scheme still appeared unclear, with government officials deeply divided. 'Liberalisation of the capital account is not simple,' the Shanghai Securities News said in an editorial yesterday. 'It requires due efforts from all aspects and needs to be enforced in a cautious manner.' The central government was worried that a massive amount of cash would flow to Hong Kong, making it difficult for the authorities to maintain a cash balance, one source said. Some media reports said Bank of China, the only designated lender where investors can deposit money for the 'through train' scheme, proposed raising the minimum investment amount to 300,000 yuan from 100,000 yuan and allow residents to open accounts only in the wealthier cities of Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Details of the scheme had not been finalised yet, an official with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange said yesterday. Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post reported that the authorities would set a maximum amount of 1.5 million yuan to slow the pace of capital outflows. 'This move is meant to reduce the number of individual investors but it doesn't matter too much,' said Yi Xianrong, an economist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. 'The best way out is to halt the scheme for the moment.' Zhang Wang, a researcher at the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said only a limited number of investors would go to Hong Kong because people were more aware of the risks of investing overseas. Raymond Or Ching-fai, the chief executive of Hang Seng Bank, said the lender was keen to offer services to investors under the programme. Mr Or said the bank expected to apply for a licence when all the details of the scheme were clear.