A district government in central Hubei Province has admitted that it actually planted vegetables on roads in order to conceal illegal land use, according to a government official of Xiangzhou district of Xiangyang city.
Miao Feng, vice director of the district government's general office, said the trick was hatched after satellite monitoring during last year's national inspection discovered illegal land seizures that were used to build roads leading to an industrial park.
In wake of the discovery, the central government ordered the district to return the illegally developed roads to farmers.
But instead of complying, district authorities went to work to hide the roads. A thin layer of soil was placed on top of plastic film over the roads, and then vegetables were "planted" to camouflage the roads so that they would appear as farmland to the monitoring satellites, according to Miao.
The ruse lasted about a month and has ended the past couple of days with the soil now cleared.
Miao said the district expects to get land acquisition approval later this year -- a year after the original application.
But the discovery of the district's cheating has triggered new outcry from local farmers who say they haven't received adequate compensation for their land.
In fact, the farmers have only been partially compensated at this time, according to local farmer Mao Huancheng. He said the local government has promised to give them the bulk of their compensation after the industrial park attracts investment.
Wang Yong, director of the investment invitation office in Xiangzhou, said several businesses had planned to invest but complained of the lack of infrastructure, such as roads.
Mao is obviously disenchanted with the way things have transpired. "This is just an evasion of the national inspection and merely a way to cajole higher-level authorities." Mao said.
Increasing, illegal land seizures are being reported in many regions nationwide, as ambitious local officials seek higher economic growth that they believe will lead to political promotions for them.
China's State Council, the cabinet, on Wednesday ordered a crackdown on illegal land grabs and forced demolitions while ensuring no decline in the country's farmland.