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Stop Illegal Land Acquisitions
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The land management system should be strictly implemented in order to stop illegal land acquisitions, says a signed article in Workers' Daily. An excerpt follows:

According to the Ministry of Land and Resources, its nationwide land checks found that, in some cities, over 60 percent of the commercial land acquisitions since September 2004 had been unlawful. Almost all serious illegal land acquisitions concern local governments. To reverse the situation, the ministry has given quantitative targets to provincial branches that each of them should openly investigate and prosecute more than three cases of illegal land acquisition in June, and at least eight cases by the end of the year.

The regulation on land management issued by the State Council in October 2004 made it clear that China will implement the strictest land management system. But it has not been strictly implemented in some regions and some local governments that should enforce the law even became law-breakers.

Some local governments place a lopsided emphasis on economic development and sell farmland at very low prices to attract investment. Some equate urbanization and industrialization with the acquisition of suburban farmland. Some encourage farmers to sell or rent their land collectively. In a word, the twisted concept of political achievement is the culprit.

In addition, land and resources administrators are hardly able to supervise the land-use behavior of governments at the same level.

And in the past, most infringements of the law were treated lightly. Seldom was a case handled strictly according to the law.

Therefore, to protect farmland and farmers' rights and interests, the officials' concepts should be changed and laws and regulations should be strictly enforced. Those who are responsible for illegal land acquisitions should be punished.

The ministry has no alternative but to set the quantitative targets now. But this is only a remedial measure. In the long run, institutional restraint is the only solution to this problem.

(China Daily June 12, 2006)

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