Alibaba offers young Hong Kong entrepreneurs HK$1 billion

Alibaba Group is hoping to strengthen economic ties between Hong Kong and mainland China, with a plan to inject HK$1 billion into a not-for-profit foundation aimed at supporting the city-state's young entrepreneurs.

Alibaba Group is planning to pump HK$1 billion into a not-for-profit foundation aimed at boosting entrepreneurship among Hong Kong's younger population.

The Chinese e-commerce giant announced on Sunday that it would establish the Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation in order to support local youths starting up and building businesses selling products and services to mainland China through its own online ecosystem.

The program will see participants gain access to financial capital, technical assistance, and training. It is also likely to see Alibaba Group's own marketplaces such as Tmall and Taobao awarded with a legion of new users and increased trade.

However, the company's executive chairman Jack Ma said the foundation is being set up in order to offer Hong Kong's younger population new opportunities, and help strengthen economic ties between Hong Kong and mainland China, according to a report by Susan Wang posted on Alibaba Group's corporate news portal Alizila.

"With a mission 'to make it easy to do business anywhere', Alibaba is passionate about fostering entrepreneurial spirits among young people," Ma said in a statement. "We hope to create life-changing opportunities so that Hong Kong's young people have an opportunity to build thriving businesses that will serve as a bridge between Hong Kong and mainland China."

The foundation will also provide venture capital to entrepreneurs and startups by investing in businesses started by young people in Hong Kong.

Profits generated by venture capital investments made by the foundation will be funnelled back into the foundation for reinvestment, ensuring an "evergreen" funding source, the report said.

The plan will also see internship opportunities at Alibaba Group and other businesses within Alibaba's ecosystem offered to 200 selected students from Hong Kong universities each year, allowing them to gain firsthand experience working in mainland China, the company said.

The fund announcement came as pro-democracy protestors returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, in the first large rally since last year's mass demonstrations calling for direct democratic elections to choose the city-state's next leader.

Hong Kong, which is -- along with Macau -- a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, has seen its youth and student population turn out in huge numbers, with the so-called Occupy Central demonstrations shutting down major roads for over two months late last year.

Organisers of the latest demonstration estimated Sunday's turnout at around 13,000 people, while local police said it was closer to 8,800 people, according to Al Jazeera.

Just last week, Alibaba Group reported a 28 percent year-on-year fall in net income to $964 million (5.98 billion yuan) in its December quarter financial results, with the company citing costs associated with its initial public offering (IPO) in the United States last September.

Meanwhile, the company has moved to hire 300 people to form an "anti-counterfeit special operations battalion" in order to weed out fake and counterfeit products on its Taobao Marketplace site. This was after China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) publicly released a report accusing Alibaba of failing to stamp out the sale of fake and counterfeit items on the platform.

Alibaba Group's executive vice chairman Joe Tsai responded last week, saying that the company was cracking down on fakes with a "zero tolerance policy" towards counterfeit products. He also took the time to openly question the accuracy of the SAIC's report, saying its findings were the result of flawed methodology.

"We believe the flawed approach taken in the report, and the tactic of releasing a so-called 'whitepaper' specifically targeting us, was so unfair that we felt compelled to take the extraordinary step of preparing a formal complaint to the SAIC," said Tsai at the time.