Local bodies under fire over land deals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 April, 2006, 12:00am

Illegal seizures becoming serious issue, Beijing says

Senior land authorities have fired a fresh salvo against local governments, blaming the country's soaring number of land violations on their defiance of central government orders.

Zhang Xinbao, director of the Ministry of Land and Resources' law enforcement and supervision bureau, said local authorities had hampered Beijing's efforts to rein in land misappropriations.

'Illegal land seizures by local governments have become a serious issue, with almost all the main cases involving illegal land use by local governments or relevant leading cadres,' he was quoted by the Beijing News yesterday as saying.

Mr Zhang said despite the repeated crackdowns, the amount of affected land was increasing across the mainland.

'More than 1 million cases of illegal land use were reported between 1999 and 2005, which involved a total area of 5 million mu [330,000 hectares], 1 million mu more than the total area of new construction in 2004,' he said.

Farmers, who received little or no compensation for forced eviction, suffered the most, Mr Zhang added.

Land disputes have become the main source of violent conflicts in recent years, pitting those citizens forced to make way for industrial and residential property projects against local authorities.

Citing two land scandals in Hebei and Anhui involving local governments, Mr Zhang criticised officials for blindly pursuing revenue by sealing illegal deals with industrial developers.

'When being investigated, local officials usually insist that economic development was their top priority,' the official added.

'Large-scale land abuses have occurred in the central and western regions with the launching of industrial projects, duplicating unsuccessful examples by attracting investment with land incentives.'

Mr Zhang said these could only result in sales of state-owned land to private enterprises, which inevitably damaged the interests of affected farmers.

He ended his criticism with renewed vows to step up the crackdown on illegal land use and severely punish officials found to be responsible.

However, he did not elaborate on what measures would be used to enlist local governments' support for the central government campaign.