WHEN I SEE constant resurrection of a proposal to develop a piece of land that every study says is utterly unsuitable for development, I think it is time to start asking some questions and here is the big one: Who owns the Lok Ma Chau Loop? Let us go over the background here again. This 96-hectare site on the border was part of Shenzhen pre-1997 but was made part of Hong Kong when the Shenzhen River was straightened to improve its flow. It is home at the moment only to reeds and birds and there is good reason for this. The site is heavily polluted with a million cubic metres of toxic mud that cannot be excavated without breaching international conventions signed by Hong Kong. Moving the mud would also disturb the nature reserve just down the river. Development is a non-starter with the mud still in place. It is additionally far from any proper sewage, water and road connections and studies say that putting these in could take up to eight years at a huge expense. But why let practical realities get in the way of big dreams? The dreamers, most of them loath to declare themselves openly, want the Lok Ma Chau Loop turned into a hi-tech manufacturing location cum vehicle exhibition site and they keep coming back to insist on it. The latest to do so is Shenzhen's new mayor, Li Hongzhong, who declared in his post-election speech on Saturday that developing the Lok Ma Chau Loop into a hi-tech industrial park will be one of his highest priorities this year and that he will raise the matter with Hong Kong officials in a meeting this month. He made the proper noises about development creating minimum levels of pollution and about complicated issues in property rights but these alone do not go to the heart of the matter. The key attraction to the development boosters is a scheme to allow employers in the Lok Ma Chau Loop to get their workforce from the mainland while being able to claim that the manufacturing facilities they operate are resident in Hong Kong. That would get them the low wage bill they want while allowing them to claim a Hong Kong certificate of origin stamp. It would also make development of nearby agricultural land much easier. If the services go in for the Lok Ma Chau Loop, they would go through much of this land and considerably boost its value for the lucky owners, very few of them the original farmers of it. For the Lok Ma Chau Loop boosters, development is all a heads I win and tails I win game. But it is a heads I lose and tails I lose game for Hong Kong. Leaving aside the environmental and land servicing issues, what are we doing encouraging employment of non-residents at a time when Hong Kong's own unemployment rate is at a high level? We do not have much manufacturing left in Hong Kong but what there is will quickly seek a move to the Lok Ma Chau Loop to cash in on that low-paid labour from the mainland if the boosters get their way. What possesses our government to give even tacit sanction to a proposal that could throw thousands more of our people on the streets without a job? Why has it not long ago flatly rejected this idea out of hand? Even if hiring of mainlanders had not been part of the plan, it still would not make sense. We already have two government-sponsored and grossly underused hi-tech parks - Science Park and Cyberport - both of which have had to make up their tenant numbers with decidedly non-tech occupants. They were both built, however, on the Silicon Valley reasoning that hi-tech should be geographically concentrated. Why, then, are we now considering an even further dilution of this effort and, of all places, well away from the urban centre at a remote location on the border? And why should we even have begun to consider it when we already have 90 million square feet of moribund industrial floor space in the city? In short, everything that could possibly be wrong with this proposal is in fact wrong with it and yet it keeps surfacing and no one in authority has quashed it, which is more than just curious. I have a suspicious mind and it leads me to that one big question again and to others that follow from it. Who owns the Lok Ma Chau Loop? Who stands to benefit if it is developed? To whom is our government kowtowing here? Do we have higher-ups in political authority across the border with a stake in this project? What we need now is full declaration of interest from anyone who persists in pushing development of the site. This silliness has gone on much too long.