03/22/2007, 00.00
CHINA

Illegal land-grabs up

Nearly 100,000 hectares of farmland was expropriated last year, 76 per cent more than in the previous year. The central government appears impotent against abuses by local officials and business people.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The number of illegal land-grab cases on the mainland rose 17.3 per cent last year to 131,000, this according to a statement by the Ministry of Land and Resources that was released on its website. The acknowledgement comes a few days after the National People’s Congress, concerned by rising social unrest caused by illegal land seizures, passed a law protecting private property.

The ministry reported that the cases involved nearly 100,000 hectares of land, up 76 per cent over 2005, with 43,000 hectares of farmland affected.

It noted that 3,593 people were punished, with two provincial officials subjected to party disciplinary measures, demonstrating that “the government has strengthened the crackdown on illegal activities in the field of land management,” Zhang Xinbao, the director of the ministry's Law Enforcement and Supervision Bureau, was quoted as saying in the People's Daily. But Zhang admitted that the substantial increase in cases showed the problem was rebounding.

China’s economic growth is pushing business people and party officials to seize land for industrial and real estate development at the expense of farmers and disregarding their rights. Too often, they get little or no compensation and are left with no way to make a living.

The net result is that land disputes are the main cause of clashes and unrest against local government and police.

At the recently concluded session of the National People's Congress, delegates passed a property law to protect farmers' rights and strictly control the conversion of farm land for residential and industrial development.

But experts warn the problem will persist so long as long government officials can find ways to go around the law.

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