01/31/2007, 00.00
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Land seizures main cause of social unrest

According to the deputy minister in the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, more than 50 per cent of rural protests are due to land seizures by local officials. Privatization of land is however excluded.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese authorities admit that disputes over seizures of land by local authorities were the main cause of rural unrest. But an official in charge of rural policies yesterday ruled out any possibility that land would be privatised.

Chen Xiwen, a deputy minister in the Office of the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs, said in a press conference yesterday that land disputes accounted for half of the rural unrest in China last year. Misappropriation and embezzlement of public funds and assets by grass-roots cadres accounted for about 30 per cent of cases, with the remaining 20 per cent involving protests against environmental pollution.

Mr Chen said never the less that rural unrest had dropped significantly last year and tension between farmers and local cadres had eased after the scrapping of the agricultural tax and the granting of direct subsidies to farmers. He declined to specify the number of incidents of rural unrest.

Deputy Minister of Social Security Liu Jinguo told a national conference on public order earlier this month that incidents of social unrest had dropped by 16.5 per cent last year. In 2005 the number stood at 87,000.

In his briefing, Mr Chen said privatising rural land was not an option; in his words: “we don't see any prospect at all in China for the time being. And this is not decided by the policies of the party or the government because the constitution of our country stipulates that there is no privatisation in China's land policies."

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