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Ministry to Tighten Land Allocation

The number of development zones and industrial parks will decrease sharply next year as the Ministry of Land and Resources tightens land distribution, seizing those illegally handed out to developers by local governments under the guise of regional economic development. But the interests of investors who have injected capital into these projects will be safeguarded, the ministry said.


"We know there are serious land distribution abuse problems involved in those zones and parks and we have devoted this year to figuring out how serious this problem is. Next year is the time for action," said Zhang Xinbao, director of the Supervision Bureau under the ministry.


Zhang did not spell out how investors' interests will be protected in the process, but he said they should not fear that their "proper and legitimate" rights will be infringed upon, because only those having violated laws should pay a price.


According to recent statistics from the ministry, of the country's 3,837 development zones and industrial parks, only 1,251 were approved by the State Council and provincial governments - the only two levels of government having the right to endorse such land use.


Since the State Council launched a special inquiry into the country's land market, especially on land distribution, in August local governments have cut the number of development zones by more than 500.


Zhang also said the ministry will carry on its efforts to rectify the land ownership situation, highlighting the protection of farmers' rights.


The Ministry of Land Resources recently released a series of statistics on its fight against irregularities in the land market for this year - which point to 168,000 cases of irregularities nationwide.


A total of 687 people involved in these cases were punished, including 94 who have been held accountable for criminal offenses.


Four new cases to be probed


The ministry also made public four cases of allegedly violating the land management laws and regulations.


Of the four cases, two had violated the interests of farmers.


Harsh measures will be used to handle the four cases, which occurred during the Chinese government's crackdown on land fraud, said Zhang Xinbao.


The four cases were in the northeastern city of Dalian, southeastern city of Xiamen, northeastern city of Shenyang and eastern city of Nanjing.


The Dalian-Dandong expressway in Liaoning Province was found to have used large tracts of land without obtaining government permission. Moreover, the local government was suspected of withholding over 28 million yuan (US$3.4 million) of compensation for farmers whose land had been taken away.


The Jimei district government in Xiamen of Fujian Province was accused of selling 12,654 square meters of land in the downtown area at a fixed price of 19 million yuan (US$2.3 million), though public bidding put the land price at 27.8 million yuan (US$3.3million).


A medical university and physical education institute in Liaoning Province's Shenyang city would be investigated for charges of occupying over 450 hectares of land without legal approval, most of which is farmland.


The Nanjing steel corporation in Jiangsu Province was found to have occupied over 300 hectares of land without government permission to build a steel mill in January.


The ministry is now studying punishments after concluding five major investigations into the illegal land use, said Zhang


(China Daily December 22, 2003)

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