Buying a private island is considered the ultimate status symbol. Americans and Europeans have been doing it for a long time. Now wealthy Chinese are getting into the act.

Lin Dong, 42, a Guangdong entrepreneur who made his fortune from a medical equipment company, is the leader of this small, but growing, group. Since acquiring his first island nine years ago, Lin has bought more than 30 islands for 30 million yuan ($4.83 million), according to Cankao Xiaoxi, a newspaper affiliated with Xinhua.

Lin, who founded and runs China Island Owners Association says there are at least 600 island owners in China. Of the 53 members of his group, about two thirds are from the mainland, while the rest are overseas Chinese.

Islands in China come with many restrictions on their use and a lease of just 50 years. However, most overseas islands are sold freehold, which makes them more attractive.

While some buy islands for pleasure alone, others see them as investments, mostly corporations planning tourism or fishing development.

In March, four islands in Fiji, Greece, the United Kingdom and Canada were put up for auction on China’s largest online shopping platform Taobao, and three of them were sold within 12 hours, said Cankao. A construction magnate in Yunnan province bought islands a Greece island for 6.2 million yuan, and one in Canada for 1.7 million yuan.

Meanwhile, a wealthy Chinese woman recently purchased the 224-hectare Slipper Island, one of New Zealand’s few privately owned islands, for nearly 35 million yuan.

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