Shares in dual-listed Chinese companies fell sharply on Thursday in Asia after the U.S. securities regulator adopted measures that would kick foreign companies off American stock exchanges if they do not comply with U.S. auditing standards.
The move by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adds to the ongoing and unprecedented regulatory crackdown in China on domestic technology companies, citing concerns that they have built market power that stifles competition.
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, signed into law by then-President Donald Trump in December, is aimed at removing Chinese companies from U.S. exchanges if they fail to comply with American auditing standards for three years in a row.
The rules also require firms to prove to the SEC they are not owned or controlled by an entity of a foreign government and to name any board members who are Chinese Communist Party officials, the SEC said in a statement Wednesday.
The China Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC) did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
In Hong Kong, the news prompted a sharp sell-off of the U.S.-listed Chinese companies which have been listed on the city’s exchange in the past two years.
Baidu Inc shares – which debuted Tuesday – dropped 10.45% in early Thursday trade, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd slipped 5.3%, JD.Com Inc fell 5% and Netease Inc was down 4.1%.
The falls outpaced a 0.2% decline in the broader Hong Kong Hang Seng Index and a 2.22% fall in the Hang Seng Tech Index.
“A lot of investors thought the U.S. and the Biden administration would be more amicable towards China and things would be easier, but this news shows that it is going to be just as tough,” Wealthy Securities managing director Louis Tse said.
DailyFX strategist Margaret Yang said the Chinese-listed stocks were also under pressure after it was reported that China was considering creating a state-backed joint venture with domestic tech firms to oversee user data.
“The latter probably marks a further tightening of government control over the technology sector,” she said.
The SEC fast-tracked the rules around how companies should submit documentation because it was required to issue them within 90 days of the Act becoming law.
The SEC is now seeking public comments on a process for identifying companies that fail to meet the standards.
The new rules come amid simmering tensions between the United States and China, with bipartisan support for a tough U.S. approach.
Last week in Alaska the two countries held their first high-level meeting under President Joe Biden’s administration, with both sides leveling sharp rebukes of the others’ policies.
A flurry of 11th-hour efforts under the Trump administration led to dozens of Chinese companies being delisted from U.S. exchanges and over-the-counter trading platforms in recent months due to allegations of Chinese military affiliations.
The SEC said it was still actively assessing how to roll out the rest of the law’s requirements, including the identification process and trading prohibition requirements.
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