Here is the painful experience of my first investment in the mainland. It was March 2001 - my eighth year as a financial journalist focusing on mainland enterprises listing in Hong Kong. Many of my colleagues had put their savings into these enterprises looking for handsome returns. I had not. That is simply because I trusted none of them. The private enterprises were dodgy. Both their business and the official get-rich story of their bosses were too good to be true. State-owned enterprises were less so but no more secure. Their majority shareholders - either provincial governments or central enterprises - never hesitated to drain or steal money from the listing firms to pay off workers they had to make redundant. Their management could not care less. Then, I came across CNOOC. It had a majority shareholder with its own profit-making business and a relatively small team, meaning a small redundancy bill and little incentive to steal from the listed arm. Its management, including its then chief executive officer Fu Chengyu, had built the state-owned business from scratch, fighting vigorously with two incumbent giants. They had a market pay and a share option scheme, which was unheard of back then. This team cared. It was listed as a red chip instead of an H share company, meaning less regulatory interference and greater flexibility. For the first time, I saw a mainland company that had a chance of operating as a commercial entity instead of a government ministry. I put a week's pay into CNOOC. It was during its public offering when both the oil price and the Dow Jones were heading south and nobody wanted its shares. I became its shareholder. It has lived up to my expectation. While its rivals suffered repeated Beijing-directed management reshuffle or horse-trading; corruption scandals as well as tales of Italian chandeliers hanging in expensive offices, CNOOC was largely untouched. Throughout the decade, it has maintained a stable home-grown management and a double-digit profit margin, tripling that of its peers. I was jubilant. My CNOOC shares have risen 15 times versus a four to six times gain of its rivals. More importantly, I thought I had found the right formula. Beijing will leave a very profitable business to its own devices. I was so wrong. On April 7, the Chinese Community Party moved Fu away from the chair of CNOOC and made him the head of its rival Sinopec. Wang Yilin, a director of PetroChina Limited was parachuted in to replace Fu. The share price of CNOOC has fallen more than 6.5 per cent since, underperforming both the Hang Seng Index and its rivals Frustration was high at yesterday's shareholders meeting, the first time I have attended one as a shareholder. One investor asked the board: 'Year after year, Fu was with us in this meeting. He has our trust and emotional attachment. Now, he is gone. That is something I don't want to see. I want no causal management reshuffle. 'Okay, I can understand the state calls the shots. [A civil servant] is assigned to this company today and another company tomorrow. It is business within the same family. But still can you please ask them to consider the interest and feeling of minority shareholders in making any reshuffle?' Answers from CNOOC's independent directors were disappointing. Retired lawyer and director Chiu Siu-hong said: 'I have been with CNOOC since 1999. I haven't changed.' Another director, retired accountant Aloysius Tse said: 'Change is the only constant in life.' I was not happy with these apparently glib replies and asked them: 'So what have they done to protect the company's interest versus the state's will?' They replied: 'We have done everything according to the rules.' That included calling a nomination committee meeting and a board meeting upon receiving Fu's resignation notice. 'Fu has signed a letter pledging to respect our commercial secrets in his new job. We should have faith in his professional integrity,' said professor Lawrence Lau, a retired university chancellor and another independent director. 'Fu was a non-executive chairman. His departure should have little impact on the company,' Chiu said. So how come they found Wang was the right choice and appointed him on the same day Fu resigned? Again, they emphasised that every official procedure has been followed and Wang was unanimously endorsed. They have made no mention of Wang's credentials. Shareholders, who might have benefited from Wang explaining his plans and merits, were disappointed. He remained silent throughout the meeting. 'When Fu resigned, he offered Wang as his replacement at the same time and handed us Wang's r?sum?. There is not much more we can ask for,' Tse said after the meeting. Why is there no open recruitment? He said: 'You know China well, right?' No, I don't. Not until I learned a good lesson from CNOOC: There is simply no genuine commercial entity under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. Upon leaving the meeting, I overheard a shareholder saying: 'It is a complete waste of time. What's the point of asking these questions? Whatever name you call it, it is all decided by the State.'