Guangdong law on rural land sales condemned as a recipe for disaster

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2007, 12:00am

The central government's decision to allow Guangdong to become the first province to freely sell off rural land ownership rights has led to land dispute riots in coastal cities, where rapid economic development has seen land values soar, experts say.

The 'Management of Collective Land Transference in Guangdong' law came into effect on October 1, 2005. It allows officials to sell or lease land ownership rights after gaining the support of two-thirds of the villagers in the affected jurisdiction. The legislation also says farmers should surrender their land to local governments for all requisitions in the public interest, but fails to define the 'public interest'.

The law was designed to advance rural land reforms to keep pace with the rapid economic development in the province, according to a 2005 provincial government announcement.

Dang Guoying , a rural affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the new rule had only benefited people or enterprises that gained cheap blocks of land, and ignored farmers' interests.

'It prompts social confrontation between privileged and underprivileged people,' he said. 'I don't agree with sacrificing the interests of the underprivileged to support the privileged, because it creates a lot of social problems.'

Macroeconomic expert Hang Meng warned that the reforms would swallow up all the richest farmland in the Pearl and Yangtze river deltas. 'Local government's blind pursuit of GDP growth has ruined the ecology of the two richest deltas,' he said.

'It not only infringes farmers' human rights, but also harms future food security.'