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Nation Clamps Down on Land Abuses

The Ministry of Land and Resources said on Friday that land abuses are still rampant in the country, despite the elimination of hundreds of development zones and industrial parks since last July.

"Too many officials have actually been looking on without taking action or have been trying to get by under pretenses," said the ministry in a circular.

It said local governments should adopt more effective measures before March 25 to improve the situation.

Calling it the Chinese "enclosure movement," critics had pointed to the excessive establishment of development zones as a "staggering" waste of arable land. From last July 18, the State suspended the approval of new development zones.

Since then, the government has closed down 2,426 such projects and integrated another 294.

According to the ministry, the development zones and industrial parks totaled 6,015 across the country, taking up an area of 35,400 square kilometers.

Sun Wensheng, minister of land and resources, said during a national conference earlier this year that unregulated establishment of development zones must be "resolutely" checked.

Rightful investors should not, however, fear losing their interests due to the campaign, the ministry sources said.

"If investors can prove their ignorance of the illegitimacy of the development zones or industrial parks, related local governments are obliged to provide a fair compensation scheme to make up for their losses to the campaign," said Mao Donglin, an official with the General Office of the ministry.

However, this can rarely happen. Mao said most of the black-listed development zones are those not capable of attracting sufficient funds for healthy development, leaving idle vast arable lands which might otherwise be growing crops in the hands of farmers.

Ma Xuelu, director of Baoding High-Tech Development Zone, North China's Hebei Province, applauded the new move, "because without unfair competition from those small and illegal zones and parks, investors would have easier and safer choices."

(China Daily February 21, 2004)

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