Wed, Apr 11, 2012 - Page 5 News List

China tightens ‘land grab’ rules in move to defuse tensions

AFP, BEIJING

China has tightened regulations governing forced land expropriations in a bid to put a lid on what has become an explosive social issue and one of the country’s biggest sources of unrest.

Authorities have for years tried to address the issue of government-backed “land grabs,” which regularly trigger protests as residents complain of poor compensation for homes that have been demolished to make way for new buildings.

In January last year, new rules were issued stipulating, among other things, that violence cannot be used to force homeowners to leave and that compensation must not be lower than the market price, but these regulations are often flouted.

The Supreme People’s Court on Monday clarified and tightened these rules in a bid to “protect the public interest and guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of expropriated home owners.”

Under the tightened rules, government authorities that want to expropriate land, but cannot reach an agreement with residents and apply to a local court for approval, must provide additional documents to prove their case.

These include a “social stability risk assessment,” as well as “feedback from homeowners and the party which enjoys the direct benefits” from the land expropriation.

In addition, the amended rules — which came into force yesterday — lay out a series of reasons for local courts to reject authorities’ applications for land expropriations.

These include situations when “compensation is obviously not in line with the principle of fairness ... or when the people’s basic living and working conditions are not guaranteed.”

China faces increasing pressure from public discontent over forced and illegal land grabs, which have in the past few months sparked protests against authorities in various areas.

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