The Ministry of Land and Resources issued a circular Thursday demanding that local governments ensure that proper compensation is given to farmers whose land is requisitioned.
The ministry said in the circular that all land requisition programmes of governments at municipal and county levels should be open to the public so they can hear the comments of farmers involved.
The programmes should include clear-cut compensation measures.
If the farmers are not content with proposed compensation arrangements, they are entitled to have their opinions included on the final version of the programmes submitted to higher authorities.
Whether the official compensation measures and those suggested by farmers are reasonable and practical will be decided when the State Council or provincial governments, the only two levels of government authorized to examine and approve land requisition programmes in China, examine such land requisition programmes.
A land requisition programme will not be approved if the compensation measures are not legal and fair and agreed to by both the grassroots governments and the farmers involved, said the circular.
This circular is the second of its kind in less than a month. The move indicates the complexity of the problem, as well as the determination of the central government to protect farmers' interests, said Long Bin, a publicity official of the ministry.
In China, urban land is owned by the State and suburban land around cities and rural land are owned by collectives, as set out in the Chinese Constitution.
Although it is inevitable that many farmers will lose their property because of the various land requisition programmes required to further the country's economic development, the government should do its best not to sacrifice farmers' interests, according to Long.
But in some cases, farmers have learned of the requisition of their land only when the bulldozers were about to move in.
A large proportion of the complaints the ministry has received from farmers over the past few years have been about land requisitions.
"The ministry wants to make it clear that farmers get fair cash compensation and satisfactory new homes when their land is requisitioned for the sake of the country's development," the official said. "It is not farmers who should pay the price of development."
For this purpose, the ministry ruled in its circular of July 16 that no applications for the use of land for construction in a given area should be approved if the local government of the area has not given satisfactory compensation to farmers involved in previous land requisitions in the area.
Furthermore, in this new circular, the ministry promised to make spot checks to ensure the actual implementation of promised compensation measures.
"If proper compensation has not been made, the officials responsible will be punished, and construction work on the requisitioned land may be suspended," said Long.
( China Daily August 9, 2002)