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Illegal Land Use Costs Gov't, Farmers

Chinese farmers were owed at least 9.9 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) in land requisition compensation and relocation fees, and investigators found irregularities might have cost the government 20.7 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) during the past several years, the country’s top land supervisor said Tuesday.


Sun Wensheng, minister of Land and Resources, said nationwide investigations found that of the 9.9 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) owed to farmers, 6.0 billion yuan (US$730 million) had been paid thanks to government intervention since last year.


Local governments have recovered about 12.8 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) of the 20.7 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) in land transfer fees that should have gone to the government, said the minister.


Last year China launched a nationwide campaign against irregular and excessive requisition of land for industrial development projects to protect the country’s land resources and the legitimate interests of farmers.


Sun’s predecessor was sacked amid the government’s high-profile campaign to regulate the land transfer market, and most localities that illegally delegated the power to approve land deals to subordinate government departments have taken back such rights.


China has investigated 128,000 illegal land use cases during the past year, involving 70,000 hectares of land, said the minister.


He said 925 people have been disciplined and 132 have been prosecuted.


A total of 2,822 illegal land deals that should have been conducted through public bidding but were made through negotiation were investigated and settled. The deals involved 5.6 billion yuan (US$686 million).


China has canceled 3,763 of 6,015 development zones of various kinds to curb illegal land use and protect its cultivated land resources, which has caused a drastic shrinking of farmland in recent years. Tens of thousands of farmers have lost their farmland to industrial and commercial development projects for very little compensation.


The minister said that China has slashed its planned development zones by 17,000 square kilometers, down from 35,400, and that 1,100 square kilometers of farmland have been recultivated.  


Of the country’s thousands of development zones and industrial parks, only 1,251 were approved by the State Council and provincial governments, the only two levels of government with the right to endorse such land use.


The ministry and local government departments will improve methods of land use rights transfer by increasing transparency and competition.


The proportion of land plots auctioned for land-use rights will be increased to 33 percent from the current 15 percent in an effort to curb illegal trading.


(Xinhua News Agency April 21, 2004)

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