12/18/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing prepares new law on expropriation

Houses and land are stolen indiscriminately by local governments, which because of the construction boom and major international events increase in value. The central government seems to want to stop the phenomenon, which causes hundreds of violent clashes every month. The Shanghai Expo and Asian Games in Guangzhou mirror the case of the Beijing Olympics.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Chinese central government is ready to change the highly controversial law on the forced demolition of homes and the displacement of citizens, which over time has become a source of violent (and sometimes fatal) conflict among homeowners and real estate speculators often aided by police. This was announced by the Office of Legal Affairs of the State Council, the Chinese Cabinet, who met on 16 December to discuss the matter.

The civil servants are studying a draft law providing for new rules for the purchase of homes and the fees that the state must pay in compensation to the displaced. The draft should abolish the current law, introduced in July of 2001, which besides having gaping voids in legislation, has been defined (even by the state press) as "unfair to the people."

The Beijing news agency, Xinhua, has interviewed the deputy director of legal affairs Hao Fengtao who argues: "the draft regulation would usher in a profound shift in housing-demolition policy".  Hao declined to give a timetable for the approval of the text, but stressed that this provides "compensation first before demolition begins ".

The text currently in force stipulates that local governments can decide at their discretion how much and when to pay, and this has increasingly created social tensions. Among other things, the explosion of the housing market and the major international events hosted by China have multiplied the number of forced expropriations.

The case of the Olympic Games held in Beijing in the summer of 2008 was sadly notorious. In order to build new stadiums and the Olympic Village, the local government evicted more than 1.5 million people, forcing them to move to rural or suburban districts of the capital. There were hundreds of violent clashes to protest against these injustices, and several who defended their home were  sentenced to years in prison.

The situation could be repeated at the 2010 Shanghai Expo and the Asian Games to be held the same year in Guangzhou. The capital of the rich southern province of Guangdong has already been the scene of violent clashes: in November, hundreds of police in riot gear destroyed homes, chased residents and cleared land. According to residents, "these things happen too often."

 

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