Residents spurn bid to withhold compensation
Residents of a Jiangsu county are boycotting an unusual attempt by the local government to withhold their huge property demolition payments in exchange for a promise of generous interest rates.
Since the start of the month, more than 2,000 households in Chunjiang county in Changzhou who would have their homes demolished to make way for a forest park have received letters from the local government asking if they would be willing to delay their compensation, the Yangtse Evening Post reported yesterday.
The letter also asks if the displaced residents would like to buy their replacement homes before they are ready to be occupied. Those who say 'yes' are promised their remaining compensation - at twice the normal bank interest rate - when the new houses are finished.
The government said the programme was intended to keep residents from carelessly spending their payments, which can often reach six-figure amounts.
Most recipients of the letter have opted to keep the money themselves, the newspaper said. Once they have opted in, accessing the money could be difficult.
'If residents need the money to support their children's wedding or buying other houses, they must apply and get their application confirmed by their village committee,' the letter said. 'Their money will be given to them only after relevant authorities permit.'
Song Jianwei, the Chunjiang county party secretary, described the arrangement as voluntary and was meant to benefit the residents. 'From our working experiences, villagers have complained they didn't know how to dispose of such a large sum of compensation and they had no idea about making investments,' Song was quoted as saying.
'Some villagers used the money to invest illegally and some gambled, ending up with a complete loss.'
He said any money residents chose to leave with the government would be deposited in banks and would not be invested.
However, Wang Cailiang, a Beijing-based lawyer who specialises in demolition cases, told the South China Morning Post that he believed the proposal was 'totally illegal' and said it was more likely that the government lacked the funds to pay the compensation.
A county government official said some parts of the Yangtse Evening Post report 'didn't accord with the reality', but refused to elaborate. He said officials from the overarching Xinbei district took complaints about the proposal seriously and held a press conference on Sunday to clarify the issue, which he said had been attended by 20 media outlets. But the Yangtse Evening Post report was the only one that could be found online.