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Lawmaker: Property Law May Serve as Umbrella to Farmers' Land
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While land expropriation has become a top causer to Chinese farmers' mass petitions, a property law under deliberation by national lawmakers for approval may give them a helping hand to safeguard their rights.

The draft of the property law, aimed to grant equal protection to state and private property, was submitted to nearly 3,000 legislators for examination Thursday morning when the second plenary meeting of the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's highest legislature, was held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The draft stipulated specific provisions on land expropriation and ensuing compensation, which can be cited to defend farmers' interests, said NPC deputy Yao Tian'en from Jiaozuo City, central Henan Province.

As a result of rapid industrialization and urbanization, Chinese farmers are losing their land but are seldom sufficiently compensated, though the central government has repeatedly underlined the protection of arable land and farmers' rights.

Official figures show that nearly 200,000 hectares of rural land are taken from farmers every year for industrial purposes, and more than 65 percent of "massive incidents", or petitions and protests that involve a large group of people, in rural areas are attributed to land expropriation.

In addition to provisions on "tight" control over arable land's expropriation for industrial and construction use, the draft property law stipulated that farmers must be compensated for lost land and farming losses, subsidized for resettlement and insured for social security, according to a text of the draft distributed to reporters at the NPC's meeting.

"Such regulations will provide farmers a powerful lever to safeguard their rights and interests when they have to give up their land," said Yao.

As part of the draft civil code, the draft property law was submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for the first review in 2002 after nearly 10 years of preparation. After an unprecedented seven times of reading, NPC Standing Committee decided last December to put it for voting at the Fifth Session of the 10th NPC, believing that the draft "represented a crystallization of the wisdom of the collective and was about to be mature".

The draft is expected to be voted by the lawmakers on March 16, when the NPC session ends.

(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2007)

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