Officials warned on illegal land deals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am

In an attempt to prevent social unrest in the countryside, Beijing says guilty cadres will face sanctions or court charges

In a move designed to curb property disputes and prevent social unrest in rural areas, the central government has strengthened its land acquisition supervisory system and stepped up punishment for illegal deals.

The Ministry of Land and Resources issued an urgent circular warning government officials who illegally approve new land acquisitions that they would face party disciplinary sanctions, with those suspected of crimes facing court charges.

The ministry also called on the supervision ministry to ensure better enforcement in the crackdown.

The statement, which was posted on the ministry's website yesterday, urged officials from local land resources departments to focus on major cases of illegal acquisitions.

Yuan Gangming , a macroeconomics expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said it showed Beijing wanted to curb the suggestion that farmers' interests are being sacrificed to boost the speed of urbanisation.

'The measures are good for long-term national economic development,' Professor Yuan said. 'Disasters will happen if we ignore farmers' interests because social unrest will ruin our economic development.'

The circular also advised provincial-level authorities to report all acquisitions from January 1 last year to Beijing by the end of this month in order to be re-examined.

The circular stated that provincial land resources officials were responsible for checking on municipal and county level acquisitions carefully and the ministry would inspect cases at random to assess local authorities' credibility.

'There have been more serious illegal land acquisitions lately in some areas, hindering the healthy development of our national economy,' Xinhua quoted a ministry official as saying.

'If we do not correct or handle the problems properly, it will not only impact on current national economic development, but also our sustainable development.'

The strongly worded document stressed that the ministries of land resources and supervision must pool resources to clean up irregularities and enforce land regulations.

It stressed that all cases related to the violation of farmers' interests, including lack of payment, arrears and embezzlement should be resolved as soon as possible.

Local governments will also not be allowed to acquire any land if they have been involved in illegal acquisitions, the circular said.

Liu Xutao , a political scientist with the National School of Administration, said the new measures showed the central government had realised the severity of illegal land seizures and was determined to deal with the problem.