Harbin: Half of Heixiazi island, which was returned to China on Oct 15, could be developed as a tourist resort, an official from Fuyuan county, Heilongjiang province, said Thursday.
Yu Wenli, head of the Fuyuan tourism bureau, said the return marked the end of a 79-year dispute over the island between Russia and China, and offers new opportunities for Fuyuan, which borders the island.
"When we negotiated with travel agencies before the island's return, they were not too enthusiastic.
"The situation has totally changed now. I have received a lot of inquiries about developing the island as a tourist resort," Yu said.
The Fuyuan trade and investment promotion department said more than 20 businesspeople from Guangzhou, Beijing, Dalian, Shenzhen and Hong Kong have shown interest in the tourism plan, and setting up import/export businesses.
The department said it had also received inquiries from Russia, the Republic of Korea and Japan about becoming joint partners.
"Some Russians realizing the island's potential, have sold their homes in Russia and have settled in Fuyuan," the department said.
Zhu Sijun, deputy director of the publicity department of Fuyuan, said: "In view of the island's geographic location, a proposal to develop the area into a Northeast Asia free trade zone is also under consideration."
Discussions on building a railway to connect the island with the mainland are already under way, and an airport is envisaged too, Zhu said.
Heixiazi Island is located at the confluence of the Heilongjiang and Wusuli rivers, and serves as a natural border between China and Russia.
It was occupied by the former Soviet Union during a 1929 border skirmish.
The island is not rich in mineral resources, but with a free trade zone and natural reserves, ideal for tourism, it has great economic potential, Feng Yujun, a professor at the China Contemporary International Relations College, said.
October 31, 2008)