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Property Law Enters Last Legislative Lap
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The marathon legislative process of the country's property law finally appeared close to conclusion with legislators planning to submit it for voting at the next full session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in March.

If passed, it will be the first law to protect both public and private ownership.

The draft, discussed yesterday at the 25th session of the NPC's 10th Standing Committee for a record seventh time, emphasizes equal protection of State, collective and private property. No previous law has had more than five readings.

As part of the draft civil code, the property bill had its first reading in 2002 and was withdrawn from the NPC full session in March amid worries that the draft might undermine the legal foundation of the socialist system.

However, lawmakers yesterday agreed that the latest draft is better written and takes into account the concerns of various parties; and proposed a vote on Friday to decide whether to submit it to the next NPC full session. There was little opposition during the debate.

Hu Kangsheng, deputy director of the NPC Law Committee, said the draft law is "in the correct direction" and is based on ground realities.

He said the draft, based on the principle of equality, enhanced protection to State property, reflected the basic policy on rural issues and safeguarded the basic interests of the public.

"It solves realistic problems that need to be done so urgently," Hu said.

The latest version adds new clauses that prohibit illegal possession, looting, private partition or withholding of State assets. Similar clauses were also added for collective and private property.

Committee member Zhu Xiangyuan said worries that the law might facilitate fraudulent acquisitions and mergers of State assets are unfounded. He said China is drafting laws on corporations and the protection of State property to regulate mergers and acquisitions.

The draft also says farmers can extend their land contracts when they expire; abolishes the previous ban on city residents buying rural house sites and leaves the issue to be dealt with by other laws and regulations such as the Land Management Law.

The committee yesterday also discussed submitting the draft corporate income tax law to the NPC's next full session; and will vote on it on Friday.

The law aims to unify corporate income tax rates for domestic and foreign companies at 25 percent to guarantee a "level playing field".

Legislators considered the tax rate appropriate and said the revision should not be delayed as favourable tax policies for overseas companies discriminate against local enterprises.

Some favourable policies in the draft, such as those for high-tech companies, investment for environmental protection and scientific research, and charity donations, would optimize the investment structure in China and help build a harmonious society, members said.

(China Daily December 26, 2006)

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