State Council takes aim at illegal golf courses
The State Council yesterday vowed to remove a lingering embarrassment to the central government's authority - the increasing number of luxury golf courses in a country that does not have enough drinking water for its people.
A 'serious effort' was ordered at a State Council executive meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, to take over and redirect the use of unapproved golf courses. Penalties were expected to be meted out to violators of a seven-year ban on building new golf courses.
Unauthorised building of courses was first banned in 2004, and has been repeatedly banned since, almost 10 times, according to China News Service.
But of the nearly 600 existing golf courses on the mainland, as many as 400 were built after 2004, the Shanghai-based Xinmin Evening News reported. In a commentary piece, it called them an embarrassment to the government.
Some local officials have already been disciplined, according to Li Jianqin, an official from the Ministry of Land and Resources who is on the central government's rules-enforcement team concerning the control of golf courses nationwide.
Unapproved golf courses have also strained the government's relations with the increasingly articulate environmental movements, which have been critical of the golf course craze. Ma Jun, a leading environmentalist, said their existence is at odds with the need to save water in drought-prone northern China.
Aside from cracking down on golf courses, the 'most rigorous measures' pledged by the central government concern the protection of arable land to offset a trend that has seen farmland decrease and deteriorate.
The State Council announced that from now until 2015, 400 million mu (26.67 million hectares) of irrigated farmland will be developed. That target date, in earlier official media reports, was 2020.
According to data recently released by the Ministry of Land and Resources, China has created only 200 million mu of standardised irrigated farmland in the past five years.
In another move, to deal with the slower-than-expected progress in the development of government-subsidised housing projects for low-income groups, the State Council stressed that the national goal of building 10 million subsidised units must be met this year.
Local governments are also being asked to prepare additional land for such projects in the next year. They are also being asked to comply with the central government's procedures and compensation rules on land acquisition, to minimise the use of force in the acquisition process, and to better protect rural citizens' land rights to private housing.
golf courses were built on the mainland despite a ban imposed in 2004