We've nothing left to trade, say residents of one test-case village

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2005, 12:00am

One of the villages selected to test the land reform policy, Huaxi in Shunde , has 2,700 residents, but no one seems to know much about the new measures or understand how they work, because they say they have no land left.

'We get 20,000 to 30,000 yuan per mu if we mortgage our land. We can't raise a family on that,' said one villager, sitting under a tree opposite the market square with a few companions. A mu is one-fifteenth of a hectare.

A village representative in his 50s said: 'We have no more land; the village cadres have taken all the land they want.'

He said that until 1990, village officials ignored village representatives and did whatever they wanted with collective land, but after that 'they listened to us and we could discuss the price'.

The village has more than 130 representatives who meet three times a year to vote on village matters like land transactions.

'When we lease a piece of land we vote on the price when the tenure is up for renewal, and we vote to decide whether to increase or lower the rent. If tenants want to transfer their lease, they do it themselves. It's got nothing to do with us,' the representative said, adding that there had been no mortgage deals in Huaxi so far.

'The policy is good only if old people have social security.'

Life was '100 times' better since he started working at the age of 15. He now has a three-storey brick home and he rents out the ground floor to five migrant households for a total of 1,000 yuan a month.

But several elderly villagers sitting nearby complained bitterly about their lot.

Although Shunde was until recently the richest town on the mainland, a 69-year-old said she received only about 1,000 yuan a year in dividends from the village collective for land leased and had to work as a baby-sitter to supplement her meagre income.

'It's not even 1,000 yuan because they deduct garbage collection and television fees,' she said. 'My son earns about 2,000 yuan a month, but he has a family to support so he doesn't give us anything. I get 250 yuan a month from baby-sitting.'