The central government has rolled out a raft of measures to help Hong Kong through the global economic meltdown, including issuing more yuan-denominated bonds and making it easier for companies in the city to borrow money and distribute their goods on the mainland. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen announced the measures after a meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the Boao Forum on Hainan Island yesterday. The central government will expand the number of commercial institutions allowed to issue yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong and the amount of funds to be raised. In a groundbreaking move, the Ministry of Finance was also mulling issuing yuan bonds in Hong Kong, he said. Currently, only corporations can issue yuan bonds in Hong Kong within a quota set by the government. Some analysts believed the ministry bonds might generate sales of up to 100 billion yuan. Mainland subsidiaries of Hong Kong banks would also be allowed to issue yuan bonds in Hong Kong, Mr Tsang said. The chief executive said Hong Kong companies in Shanghai and Guangdong would be able to use their Hong Kong assets as collateral to borrow money from the mainland branches of Hong Kong banks. The central government also pledged to help Hong Kong-owned factories distribute their goods on the mainland. In another sweetener, mainlander tourists will be able to travel to Taiwan by taking cruises that depart from Hong Kong. Hong Kong's service sector will gain wider access to the mainland market under the sixth supplement of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, due to be signed next month. The new pact will expand access for Hong Kong firms in accountancy, education and training. Mr Wen acknowledged Hong Kong's efforts to weather the global financial crisis but urged the city to further develop its strength to counter the global economic downturn. 'I find Hong Kong has a sense of crisis as the SAR government has taken a decisive step and courage in combating the crisis,' Mr Wen told Mr Tsang. 'To solve the long-term problems of the city, Hong Kong should make good use of its niche and raise the level of its competitiveness, innovation, education and IT development.' Mr Wen's remarks were more reassuring than ones he made last week when he warned the city that it would have to raise its game to maintain its status as a financial hub. 'Hong Kong as a financial centre is facing competition. To quote a Chinese proverb: without progress, decline is inevitable,' he said. The warning, made at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Pattaya, followed renewed debate on Hong Kong's future after the central government backed Shanghai to become an international financial centre by 2020. But Mr Wen hit a more supportive note yesterday. 'Mr Wen asked me to deliver this message at the end of our meeting: that no matter what difficulties Hong Kong faces, the central government always offers strong backing to us,' Mr Tsang said. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said it would contact the People's Bank of China and the China Banking Regulatory Commission to talk about implementing the steps. Bankers and trade associations welcomed Beijing's offers, saying they were a significant step in internationalising the role of the yuan, spurring trade and stemming job losses. Tourism chiefs believed the policy to allow mainlanders to join cruise tours from Hong Kong to Taiwan would strengthen the city's status as a regional cruise hub. Peter Wong Tung-shun, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Banks and an executive director of HSBC, said of the bond market initiatives: 'These are all firsts and are very significant as far as internationalising the role of yuan.' Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said of Mr Wen's message: 'He opened the speech with positive remarks. It is in line with central government leaders' practice in the past 10 years, to boost people's confidence when the Hong Kong government's popularity is low.'