Joint taskforce takes first steps on development of Lok Ma Chau Loop Hong Kong and Shenzhen will conduct a joint study this year to clear up doubts over the ownership and future uses of the Lok Ma Chau Loop, top officials from Hong Kong and Shenzhen said yesterday. The move, agreed at a meeting of the officials yesterday, represents the first concrete step towards deciding the future of the loop, a 96-hectare piece of no-man's land formed by straightening the Shenzhen River more than a decade ago. As it now lies south of the river, which forms the border between the two cities, it is under Hong Kong administration but according to a State Council order issued in 1997, Shenzhen authorities own the land. The Hong Kong-Shenzhen taskforce on boundary development decided at its first meeting yesterday to form separate working groups on the development of the loop and planning for it. It also set up a group to conduct preliminary planning for a new border checkpoint between Heung Yuen Wai in Hong Kong and Liantang in Shenzhen. The loop has been the subject of numerous proposals in the past 10 years and the head of the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, a think-tank close to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, said yesterday the free flow of people and application of Hong Kong laws were crucial to its future. Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said after the meeting that an environmental impact assessment on future use of the loop should be made according to Hong Kong standards as the site was Hong Kong territory. The working groups will meet every six months and report on the progress to the joint taskforce, headed by Mrs Lam and Shenzhen Deputy Mayor Liu Yingli . Mr Liu said a comprehensive joint study would begin this year to explore the feasibility of developing the loop on the basis of mutual benefit. Funding for the study would be shared between the governments of the two cities. Academic institutions from both sides would be commissioned to collect views on developing the loop from the public and experts, he said. Mrs Lam said the officials did not have fixed views on future use of the land. 'The working group will study how the ownership, development rights and management rights should be shared by both sides.' Proposals floated by tycoons, political parties and research institutions over the past 10 years have included centres for value-added industries, researching new technology, trading high-end technological products, international exhibitions and a universities hub. Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk suggested turning the loop into a trading centre for quality Chinese medicine. 'Demand for Chinese medicine is surging, but people are worried about its authenticity. The loop could function as a reliable export centre which delivers the strengths of both cities.' According to a report released by the research centre last year, an authority co-ordinating the development and management of the loop area should be set up by representatives from both cities. But Mr Wu stressed that 'software', such as the free flow of people and application of Hong Kong law would be significant in making the area a world-class economic zone.