Deputies to the 10th National People's Congress (NPC) are calling for an increase in compensation to help farmers who lose their land to construction projects. However, the farmers themselves prefer a land-leasing policy to better protect their rights.
Land disputes are among the most common problems in the countryside with many farmers losing their most essential resource to the construction of factories, roads or other general infrastructure projects.
In east China's Zhejiang Province such disputes have been in decline since 2003 when the provincial government put in place a transparent land use system, introduced a social insurance scheme and provided training opportunities for farmers.
"To reform the land use policy and improve the process are the key measure to protect the livelihoods of farmers," said Wang Jinsong, director of Zhejiang Provincial Department of Land and Resources. He will make the proposal to revise the Land Administration Law.
After farmers are informed of the exact use of their lands, open hearings will be held in villages where farmers may bring their disputes over compensation or continue negotiations with land users.
The annual income of the land is the basic valuation measure under the Land Administration Law with farmers usually being compensated five to eight times the value of the land's production.
Farmers who lose their land can get assistance from the village and provincial government who each contribute about one-third to the social insurance scheme that will pay these farmers at least 200 yuan (US$25) monthly when they reach retirement age.
But some in farming communities have criticized the measures as being just a 'stopgap' that will not resolve their worries. "Once the land is expropriated and the money runs out we'll not have enough land left for future generations," said NPC deputy Cheng Yangzhen, a farmer from Cixi of Zhejiang.
Cheng said farmers prefer to lease their land for a set term -- 10 or 20 years -- or they may become shareholders by investing in developments built on their land.
"The best solution," said Cheng, "is to clearly identify the rights of the farmers."
(China Daily March 7, 2006)