China has disciplined two local leaders of central Henan Province for illegally authorizing the occupation and use of land, according to information from the executive meeting of the State Council on Wednesday.
The CPC's Standing Committee on Discipline Inspection issued Li Xinmin, the secretary of Henan Province's Political and Judiciary Committee, and Wang Wenchao, the party chief of Zhengzhou's city committee, with serious warnings.
Both are members of the Henan Province's Standing Committee of the CPC. Li was a former vice-governor of Henan Province and Wang was the former mayor of Zhengzhou, capital of Henan.
The two are being held accountable for permitting a secondary school to illegally expand its campus onto farmland, persisting in the face of direct contrary orders.
Chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, the meeting of the State Council decided to circulate a notice criticizing the Henan Provincial government, and required it to write a self-criticism letter to the State Council. Following the meeting, all responsible would face adequate penalties.
From 2003 to 2006, the Zhengzhou government and other institutions illegally authorized the seizure of 14,877 mu (991.8 hectares) of collectively-owned land for the extension of a campus area. The Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) investigated the case in 2005 and instructed the local government to stop its illegal behavior.
However, the Zhengzhou government continued to expand the illegal occupation, despite the case severely violating national land use policies.
The State Council concluded that the Henan provincial and Zhengzhou local governments should be held responsible. The provincial government was found to be in flagrant dereliction of duty in not carrying out central government policies.
The local government of Zhengzhou illegally made the decision to occupy the land and other local institutions illegally executed the decision, said the information from the meeting, adding that officials at all levels are to learn from recent cases of illegal land use and to operate the land management system to the letter.
The cabinet announced a series of measures this month to rein in rampant illegal land use, restricting the transfer of farmland for construction to curb an overheating economy.
This controversy has come after tightening government regulations following a scrutiny on land use by provincial governments. Answerable to the State Council, local leaders will be penalized if land use transgressions are allowed on their watch. The leasing of land from farmers for construction is banned in the twin interests of protecting farmers and curbing China's runaway investment which saw a growth of 30 percent in the first half of the year. .
Reining in local governments is a major goal of the new policy, as "they are actually behind almost all major cases of illegal land use", said Zhang Xinbao, a senior official with the MLR, earlier this month.
(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2006)