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Scheme to Test Results of Property Lease Extensions
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China will begin conducting pilot projects on how to extend dwellers' rights when their land lease expires, the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) said over the weekend.

The current law stipulates that the country owns the land, while individuals only have the right to use it for a stipulated period of time.

The longest term is 70 years, after which the land reverts to the country.

The Property Law, due to take effect in October, and which was passed during this year's National People Congress, states that after the expiry of the land lease it can automatically be extended.

The law was immediately hailed as a landmark for its protection of all kinds of properties.

However, it also sparked debate between academicians and government officials on the law's basic principle - to put all properties on an equal foot.

The extension of land use rights was a key issue. Some argued if it can be extended automatically it is tantamount to owning the land.

The MLR said a series of pilot projects on this aspect of the Property Law would be carried out to better protect the interests of farmers who lost their properties due to land acquisition.

The ministry also ordered its subordinates to annul local regulations before October which fail to comply with the Property Law.

"The Property Law does not specify how the term would be extended and whether people will be charged, that is what needs to be resolved through the pilot projects," said Wang Liming, a professor of the Renmin University of China.

Wang said that the problem would occur in 10 years' time when the terms of many old houses expire.

"Theoretically, people have the right to stay in their houses until the house becomes inhabitable or torn down," he said.

Tang Peng'ao, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Property Law was a "pledge" by the country to the world to grant all properties equal protection.

"If a foreigner buys a car in China, he owns it and is protected," he said, "There is no doubt about that."

He said the law would overhaul legislation relating to fixed assets.

"The law requires a unified registration system for fix assets, which means there will be only one place for land registration," he said.

"It will streamline the current multi-registration system of different government departments."

To facilitate the implementation of the law, China needs to speed up legislation of related laws as supplements, he said.

"Laws regulating fix assets registration, housing demolition and relocation, are imperative," he said.

"And an effective administrative enforcement of the law is also vital."

(China Daily May 24, 2007)

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