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Irregularities in Land Use Cost Government, Farmers Dearly

Chinese farmers were owed at least 9.88 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) in land requisition compensation and relocation fees. Investigators found irregularities might have cost the government 20.7 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) during the past several years, the country’s top land supervisor said Tuesday.


Sun Wensheng, minister of Land and Resources, said nationwide investigations found that of the 9.88 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion), 5.99 billion yuan (US$730 million) had been paid to farmers thanks to government intervention launched since last year.


About 12.8 billion yuan (US$1.56 billion) of the 20.7 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) in land transfer fees, which might have been lost without the crackdown and investigation, have been recovered by local governments, said the minister.

China launched a nationwide campaign on irregular and excessive requisition of land last year for industrial development projects to protect the country's land resources and the legitimate interests of farmers.


Sun's predecessor was sacked amid the government's high-profile campaign to regulate the country's land transfer market, and most localities that illegally delegated the power of approving land deals to subordinate government departments have taken back such rights.


China has investigated 128,000 illegal land use cases, involving 70,000 ha of land during the past year, said the minister.


He said 925 people have been disciplined and 132 have been prosecuted.


China also investigated and dealt with a total of 2,822 illegal land deals, which should be made through public bidding but were made through negotiation. The deals involve 5.63 billion yuan (US$686 million), said the minister.


China has canceled 3,763 of 6,015 development zones of various kinds to curb illegal land use and protect its cultivated land resources, which has caused a drastic shrinking of farmland in recent years. Tens of thousands of farmers lost their farmland for very little compensation to industrial and commercial development projects.


The minister said China had halved its planned development zones by 17,000 sq km from 35,400 sq km, and 1,100 sq km of farmland has been re-cultivated.


Of the country's thousands of development zones and industrial parks, only 1,251 were approved by the State Council and provincial governments -- the only two levels of government with the right to endorse such land use, according to statistics released by the ministry.


Meanwhile, the ministry and local departments in charge of the sector will improve the way the land use rights are transferred by increasing transparency and competition.


The proportion of land plots auctioned for land-use rights will be increased to 33 percent, from the current 15 percent, in an effort to curb illegal trading in land-use rights.


(Xinhua News Agency April 21, 2004)


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