About 10km off the Zhejiang coast, an uninhabited island is available for lease. The island, Zhuyu, is about five hundred times smaller than Lantau. There is no fresh water or electricity and a typhoon destroyed the only dock at the beach last year. Rent starts at 15 million yuan (HK$17 million) for 30 years. Dongtou county tourism official Pan Xiaowen said quite a few people had already phoned with inquiries. 'But none meets our requirement,' Mr Pan said. 'We welcome investors, but the island is still a virgin and she deserves the best proprietor.' The mainland oversees more than 6,500 uninhabited islands. In recent years, many people have called on Beijing to open them up to the private sector. They say a large number could be developed into holiday homes, golf courses or tourist attractions. Beijing has allowed businesses or individuals to lease uninhabited islands since 2003. Costal provinces such as Zhejiang, Guangdong, Fujian and Hainan put hundreds up for lease. But a People's Liberation Army source said that the idea had met strong opposition from the PLA Navy, which has used the islands for storage, transport, communication and exercise purposes. There was also public criticism that private businesses were exploiting the islands for profit. In 2005, nearly all the projects were called off. But Zhuyu was an exception. In 2004, Zhejiang businesswoman Chen Xiaoxian paid 4 million yuan to lease the island for five years. A typhoon in 2006 destroyed nearly every surface structure she built on the 40 hectare isle. The Wenzhou Metropolitan News quoted Ms Chen as saying in 2007 that her money was gone 'like water on the sand - quickly, you don't see a mark of it'. 'I love the island ... but I do not have the courage to invest more because the government no longer supports us,' she said. Mr Pan said nearly everything on the island remained in a natural state. 'The island has magnificent scenery - the best in the area,' he said. 'You could camp, collect shells or simply lie on the 10,000 square metre, entirely natural grass field that stretches high above the beach. 'An investor can rebuild the dock, set up a tourist centre and even construct a fishing village that recreates the ancient seafaring atmosphere.' Investors must pay the 15 million yuan within three years and no large permanent structures will be allowed, although Mr Pan said that requirement was negotiable. 'We don't have any specific environmental requirement,' he said. 'You draft it.' He said more than 1.6 million tourists visited Dongtou county - which is an island - last year. Most visitors were from Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shanghai, but the number from inland provinces had increased rapidly in recent years.