Wuhan is pressing hundreds of Chinese firms to repay their debts in rare public warning

Wuhan, the largest city in central China, has publicly demanded that hundreds of local companies repay their debts, in an extremely rare move that highlights the dire financial situation facing many of the country's municipal governments amid economic uncertainty.

The city's finance bureau said in a Friday statement published by the official Changjiang Daily newspaper that a total of 259 companies and entities owed it more than 100 million yuan ($14 million) combined. It urged them to pay their overdue debts as soon as possible.

The debtors or guarantors include state or privately owned companies, government departments and think tanks, according to official media outlets quoting a screenshot of the newspaper.

The finance bureau said it was unsuccessful in collecting the debts and was offering rewards to anyone able to provide useful information about the debtors' financial assets.

The public announcement by Wuhan, which was at the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic that began in late 2019, is highly unusual and underscores the fiscal challenges facing China's local governments.