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Screws tightened on illegal land use
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Land violators in China have been dealt with too leniently in the past, a senior government official said over the weekend.

Zhang Xinbao, director of the Law Enforcement and Supervision Department of the Ministry of Land Resources, once again pledged to toughen the department's stance towards corrupt officials.

From November 2004 to August 2006, land resource departments in a province in central China recommended that 96 people were handed Party or administrative penalties for illegal land use but only half were punished, he was quoted as saying by Monday's Beijing News newspaper.

During the same period, 32 people were handed over to judicial authorities but only seven were given criminal sentences, the paper said, without giving the name of the city.

From 2005 to 2006, a coastal city applied to local courts to enforce verdicts on 937 land violation cases, but only one was enforced, the paper reported.

Zhang said a satellite survey last month showed 22 percent of new acquisitions in 90 medium-sized and large cities were illegal.

Data collected from October 2005 to October 2006 also showed more than 80 percent of acquisitions were illegal in eight cities, where more than 16,000 hectares were illegally used, said Zhang.

"More timely exposure should be given to those land violators so as to attract more media and the public to join in the supervision of land use," Chen Jieren, a Beijing scholar, was quoted by the paper as saying.

The world's most populous nation faces a worrying farmland shortage. Its arable land declined from 122 million hectares to 121.8 million hectares over 2006, almost hitting the minimum level of 120 million hectares, as specified by the central government. 

(Xinhua News Agency November 6, 2007)

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