INFORMATION is the oxygen of financial markets. Reduce the flow, and they slow down. Cut it off, and they die. This is a truism with which those who govern China's still young markets were becoming very familiar. But there is a now real concern that press activity in China is becoming much more regulated since the Xi Yang imprisonment, and the outspoken reaction which followed in Hong Kong. Threats of boycotts have been responded to with threats of exclusion. In this sort of game there are no winners. If it escalates, one of the losers will be the ambition of China to see its big companies comfortably listed aommission, found themselves under apparent threat. The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office told the organisers that those reporters who were not fully accredited through Xinhua (the New China News Agency) might be regarded as unwelcome guests, even though they had been formally invited by the organisers. Given the current atmosphere, prudent newspapers recalled their reporters. The Hong Kong journalists' anger was legitimate when the organisers said foreign journalists had not been formally invited to report on the symposium. It was the second time in a week that Beijing had played it tough with journalists covering events on the mainland. The result was that valuable information and interpretation of the programme for floating these companies was lost to the international investment field. Beijing has hurt, rather than helped, these firms by excluding the Hong Kong media from covering the event. Instead of making journalists nervous about covering the plans for the corporatisation of China, the authorities should be looking at the role that the press plays in financial markets. There is an enormous demand from investors, both professional and private, for information about markets and companies. This is especially true of emerging markets, which are far from transparent. Official statements, and even brokers' circulars, are only part of the information dissemination system. The press plays the bigger role of offering impartial reporting and analysis, which for many potential investors is the preferred source of information. This is recognised by many mainland companies (and many government officials) who welcome journalists to their plants and offices to explain their businesses and outline their plans. The regular conferences and symposiums held inside China are valuable sources of quality information about corporate developments. If China were to silence this essential dialogue it would quickly be noticed by tnd traded on foreign stock markets. So it was an ominous development when journalists from Hong Kong attending a Beijing conference on the coming international listing of 22 mainland enterprises, organised by the China Securities Regulatory Che international investment community. No newspaper would be so arrogant as to claim that this would lead to a total investment drought, but it would undoubtedly add an item to the minus column of investors calculating their portfolio strategies. It is in China's interest for Beijing to loosen the Hong Kong media's activities in the mainland - not tighten them.