Thu, Aug 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Beijing to reconsider private property law


A proposed law that would be the first to protect Chinese private property rights is back before parliament after being withdrawn earlier this year amid ideological disputes, state media said yesterday.

The legislation, submitted on Tuesday to parliament, would give private property the same protection as government assets while affirming the "dominant role" of state industry, the Xinhua news agency and newspapers reported.

The law reflects China's reliance on private enterprise to create jobs and economic growth. But the dispute over it also highlights lingering unease in some segments of the ruling Chinese Communist Party about relinquishing control over the economy.

It was withdrawn in March during the annual session of China's National People's Congress after complaints that its protections were too sweeping and would shield corrupt officials who took bribes or stole public property.

Such anxiety has been magnified by mounting public anger at the growing gap between the tiny elite who have profited greatly from China's two-decade-old economic boom and its vast, poor majority.

State media didn't say how the new version of the proposed law was amended to deal with such complaints. But Xinhua said it would "clarify the scope and ownership of state assets."

The bill was submitted on Tuesday to parliament's Standing Committee, a Chinese Communist Party-controlled body that enacts most of China's laws and meets between the brief annual sessions of the ceremonial parliament.

Its ultimate passage appears certain, because China's Constitution was amended in March 2004 to enshrine the right to own private property for the first time since the 1949 communist revolution.

The law would bring China's legal code into line with a society where millions of people have set up businesses and bought homes despite lacking any formal protections of their property rights.

But conservative party figures and academics are reluctant to see the government's role in the economy eroded amid growing income gaps and social problems.

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