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China Moves to Constitutionalize Private Property Protection

Chinese legislators began Monday to consider whether to specify the inviolability of private property in the nation's Constitution, and the draft constitutional amendment, if approved, would become what is widely described as "a historic progress."

Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), briefed lawmakers on the draft constitutional amendment at the on-going national legislature's annual session in the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing Monday afternoon.

The draft amendment suggests "legal private property is not to be encroached upon" and adds "the state should give compensation" to the current stipulation that "the state has the right to expropriate urban and rural land."

"It is a substantive breakthrough in the history of the People's Republic of China and that reminds me of the past old days when we were proud of being penniless and devoting all possessions to the country," said Xia Bing, a lawyer who serves a Shanghai-based private law house.

In the first 30 years after New China was founded in 1949, the predominant agricultural country had been engaged in a continuous campaign to turn its war-shattered economy into what the top leaders hoped to be superior to the world powers. 

The drive was frequently pestered by uncertainties such as natural disasters and political movements such as the devastating "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976). The people worked hard in cropland and factories year in year out, and their struggle did not bring in a fairly comfortable life featured by well-furnished private houses and cars.

Tremendous improvements in the people's daily life did not take place until the Chinese economy began to take off fuelled by the reform and open-up policy adopted in the late 1970s. In 2003, China's per-capita GDP reached US$1,000, which is internationally accepted as a mark of a medium-developed country. Major cities such as Shanghai even reported a much bigger figure of more than US$5,000.

With swelling wallets, an increasing number of Chinese citizens have purchased or are planning to buy houses and cars, both regarded as necessities of a modern life.

Concurrent with the economic boom is a change in the people's thinking, from the concept that "It's shame to be rich" to a brand-new motto that "It's a pride to get rich through hard work in a lawful way."

(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2004)

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