Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - Page 5 News List

China finds thousands of new land theft cases

KICKED OUT Xinhua reported that a 100-day crackdown found 32,000 more cases of residents being forced out of their homes or off their land for little or no compensation

AFP , BEIJING

Chinese authorities have uncovered 32,000 more cases of illegal land grabs during a crackdown on one of the major factors behind rising social unrest across the country, state press reported yesterday.

The amount of land unlawfully seized from its rightful owners totaled 233,000 hectares, Xinhua news agency cited Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi (徐紹史) as saying on Monday.

The land grabs were uncovered during a 100-day operation by the ministry, which is ongoing, Xinhua news agency said.

This was in addition to 130,000 cases of illegal land grabs last year, an increase of 17.3 percent from 2005, according to previously released government figures.

The seizures reflect a widespread problem of local government authorities colluding with businessmen to force people off their property to make way for lucrative developments.

The phenomenon extends from the cities to rural areas, with many residents kicked out of their homes or off their land for little or no compensation.

"In China, land seizures have even involved local officials who want to boost local governments' fortunes -- or their own," Xinhua reported.

Xu said around one-fifth of the land that was found to be illegally seized in the latest crackdown was used to build industrial parks.

In his annual parliamentary address in March, Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) specifically warned officials against illegal land grabs.

But human rights activists say corruption is so endemic that the government can do little even if it genuinely wants to stop the land grabs, which have been a big part of the nation's modernization drive.

The land seizures have led to much anger. According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Public Security, there were 87,000 protests across the country in 2005, up 50 percent from two years earlier, many of them over land seizures.

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