A set of governmental measures to expose rampant illegal land acquisitions took effect today.
The central government now requires that all commercial land must be acquired through a national bidding and auction process.
The new regulations, released by the Ministry of Land and Resources, stipulates that this applies to land to be used for business, tourism, recreation, commercial property and other profitable purposes.
"The process and final results of bidding and auctions should also be made public," a ministry spokesman said yesterday. "Land transactions will be transparent and be monitored by the public."
However, such market-based practices are still new in China. In most regions, the government transfers land directly to investors, which has led to rampant corruption.
Ministry statistics indicate that the government transferred 163,000 hectares of land nationwide last year, but only 35 percent of it was done through bidding and auctions. Nonetheless, the ministry considered this to be an improvement to 2002's figure of 14.5 percent.
Experts have blamed the ministry for the slowness in stepping up regulations.
"The government has regarded curbing fast land supply as a solution to stop frenzied investment for a long time, but the concrete measures came out so late," a researcher surnamed Lin with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told China Daily.
The ministry's spokesman also acknowledged some irregularities in previous land transaction dealings. For example, local governments would withhold information concerning the land, lay obstacles for bidders and use other underhanded methods to transfer land.
"The problems have existed for several years, resulting in some negative effects," Lin said.
Lin cited corruption, a growing landless population, overinvestment and a decline in the amount of arable land as problems already challenging the central government as a result of lax land management.
China had 122 million hectares of arable land last year, down from 130 million hectares in 1996. According to the ministry, it needs at least 106.7 million hectares of cultivated land to feed its theoretical peak population of 1.6 billion by 2030.
Recognizing these challenges, the government recently pushed for the establishment of nine land inspection bureaux nationwide to strengthen the supervision of land acquisition.
Premier Wen Jiabao expressed several concerns last week including the fact that too much land is made available for real-estate development, industrial land transfer costs are too low, and illegal occupation or squatting is still rampant.
"Much stricter measures must be employed to curb these trends," Wen said.
Also effective from today are new regulations banning on medical advertising and trade in corpses.
In a joint statement by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce, television and radio advertisements for medicines, medical equipment, weight loss, breast enlargement and other beauty products and treatments are temporarily banned.
Television and radio stations that fail to fulfill their obligations and who are found guilty of causing people serious harm will be dealt with.
In new measures set out by the Ministry of Health, the government has banned the trade of corpses and commercial activities involving corpses, saying no organization or individual is allowed to accept body part donations except medical institutes, medical schools, medical research institutes and forensic research institutes.
Bodies are not allowed to be moved into or from China other than for interment or medical research purposes.
In other legislative developments, the State Administration of Taxation issued a policy stating that real estate owners are to pay individual income tax at 20 percent of their net profit on the sale of secondhand houses, a measure designed to cool down the overheated real estate market.
The Ministry of Land and Resources also now requires that eight kinds of maps be subject to the examination and approval of state land surveying and mapping authorities, including the world map, national map, map of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, maps for school teaching and imported maps.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency August 1, 2006)