HONG KONG - The search for more land has taken Hong Kong across the border - into mainland China.
A government-affiliated think-tank is drafting a proposal to create a "mini-Hong Kong" in Nansha, Guangzhou, by leasing land from the local government.
The proposed 40 sq km land parcel will be governed by Hong Kong and its laws. This includes unfettered Internet, and the freedom of expression and the media - rights enshrined in Hong Kong, but not in the rest of China.
Says Mr Fang Zhou, chief research officer of the One Country Two Systems Institute, which advises Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying: "It will, for all intents and purposes, be part of Hong Kong."
The proposal will be formally submitted to the Hong Kong government for approval early next year, adds Mr Fang, who is also a member of a new government-appointed committee to strategise how Hong Kong and mainland China can strengthen cooperation.
It is understood that the idea has Mr Leung's tacit support.
After that, the approval of Beijing and the Guangdong government will have to be sought.
But the idea, which raises questions of political jurisdiction and financial control, is sensitive and likely to attract controversy.
Its proponents believe that such an arrangement will benefit both Hong Kong and Guangdong.
Located in south-eastern Guangzhou, Nansha, which has an area of 800 sq km, has been designated a development zone along with Qianhai in Shenzhen and Hengqin in Zhuhai, but lags behind the other two in attracting investors. Once dubbed "the Siberia" of Guangzhou, it remains dotted with fields amid developments.
Hong Kong, on the lookout for space to build more homes, can build some 300,000 flats on the designated site, housing 600,000 to 800,000 people, says Mr Fang.
It will be accessible: A high-speed rail connecting Nansha to Hong Kong is expected to be up by 2015. The trip to West Kowloon will then take just 30 to 40 minutes, compared with today's 80 minutes by ferry.