Land can still be seized, says legal expert
Authorities can still forcefully acquire land from residents in the name of public interest under the new Property Law, which enshrined private ownership in the mainland's civil code in October, a legal expert said yesterday.
Hopes had been expressed that the law would offer better protection to citizens affected by sprawling urban development.
But a Shenzhen law professor, who declined to be further identified, pointed out that the new law mainly targeted private property development, with developers prevented from forcefully acquiring land from affected residents and having to seek residents' agreement before any work.
This, however, did not apply to public authorities as long as public interest was involved, the professor said. 'What the authorities have to do is to either offer the residents compensation or relocate them.'
The professor said that under the Urban Housing Demolition and Relocation Management Regulations, local authorities could demolish the houses of disgruntled residents even when a court case was pending. Although the existing regulation's spirit appeared to be in contravention of the new Property Law, the professor said: 'I don't think the government has any plan to revise or change the regulation at the moment.'
While citizens appear to be helpless in dealing with the government, there have been sporadic successes in disgruntled landowners' fights against property developers this year.
In March, a court in Chongqing declined to enforce a demolition order on a house whose owner stubbornly refused to give in to developers. A peaceful settlement between developers and the Chongqing couple, who fought for three years to save their house from demolition, was struck.
Another case occurred in Shenzhen, where a Hong Kong owner of a 'nail house' - a reference to residents who refuse to move from their homes - finally signed an agreement with the developer in September, ending a six-month court battle.