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Farmland to Be Better Protected

China is considering readjusting its land policy with an aim to bring farmland under strict control and promoting the reform of the government's land requisition and land management systems.


"We can say for sure that restrictions will be imposed on the scope of land requisition to a great extent," said Dr. Zhang Xiaoling, a member of the group drafting an official document on the land requisition reform and deputy chief engineer of the Chinese Land Surveying and Planning Institute.


"Also, higher compensation will be paid to farmers whose land has been used for public projects, and a certain insurance is under consideration to guarantee their livelihood," said Zhang, quoted by the Shanghai-based Oriental Outlook, a newly published weekly affiliated with Xinhua.


Farmers have lodged many complaints on land requisition with the government, and study has been carried out for four years for mapping out the policy for the land requisition reform.


Local governments, who monopolize the sale of land-use rights, are making huge profits by buying land from farmers at low prices, and selling it to developers at higher prices. Such profits have become a "secondary source of revenue" in some localities, resulting in rampant corruption.


Chang Jiaxing, deputy director of the Law Enforcement and Supervision Bureau under the Ministry of Land and Resources, revealed that more than 100,000 illegal cases related to land were reported in the first half of this year. Some 39,133 hectares of land is involved in these cases, including 19,400 hectares of farmland.


Huang Xiaohu, secretary-general of the China Society of Land Science, said the reform of the land policy should focus on the respect of the farmers' property right of the land, giving them the say in negotiation over land requisition and preventing local officials from buying the land at will.


The revision of the country's law on land management, expected to start soon, will give priority to how to reasonably use land resources and guarantee the benefits of those whose land becomes target of requisition, according to Huang.


Yan Jinming, member of a national expert group on the overall planning of land use, who is participating in the legislation concerning land management, said the group is working on provisions on land planning, which will contain detailed rules on the approval, permission and revision of plans concerning the use of land.


For a long time, the final say on the trading of land-use right has been in the hand of local governments, and this time the central government is considering taking over the power, according to insiders.


In China, land is public property and is divided into land for agricultural use, land for construction purpose and land to be kept intact. Under the land management law, work units and individuals, either urbanites or farmers, can contract the right to use land according to law under condition they will not use the land for other purposes.


However, experts say, the highly profitable trading of land-use rights has created an economic bubble though the booming real estate industry has contributed to national economic growth. The nationwide craze for construction of housing and development zones has led to heavy losses of farmland.


Economist Dang Zhiguo said the reform of the land policy should ensure that government institutions are no longer engaged in the trading of land-use right, which will help the fledgling real estate sector to develop heavily and in an orderly manner.


Experts hope the establishment of a standardized land management system will benefit farmers, stop illegal transfer of land-use right, and effectively protect farmland and grain production.


(Xinhua News Agency December 8, 2003)


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