Businessman told to give up rights to island after government says 70-year contract invalid

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 12:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 October, 2013, 1:59pm

A village government in Guangdong is moving to repossess an island after claiming a contract signed by a businessman for the right to invest and manage the island more than 20 years ago is invalid.

Hailing Village in 1992 contracted the 1.6-square kilometre Nanpeng Island to Guangdong businessman Li Zongcen, a marine poultry producer in Hanyang, for afforestation purposes as well as other rights including tourism or marine production development, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily. The contract period was set to be 70 years.

Over the years, the isle has transformed from a land left desolate from years of excessive mining into one covered with plants and populated with hundreds of cows. Li told the Daily he made this possible by hiring hundreds of workers to plant tens of thousands of trees and spent years cultivating the land and protecting it from harsh weather and plagues of rats.

However since 2011, Hailing Development Committee had frequently approached Li, telling him the contract was invalid and requesting to retrieve it from him. The committee told the Daily that the Hailing village authority was unqualified to grant Li the rights to the island. Citing relevant laws, the committee explained that only prefecture-level governments or above have authority to contract inhabited islands to individuals. 

In March, the Committee brought Li to court and the trial’s verdict was in favour of the authority.

“How could they claim [the contract] is invalid as simply as that? Not only did they not appreciate my contribution, they now even condemn me for it,” Li told the Daily.

Li’s lawyer said numerous pieces of evidence showed prefecture-level governments had known about the contract all along, yet none of the various levels of government had ever raised any disputes during Li’s 20 years of administration over the island, the report said. 

Chen She, a spokesman of the Hailing Development Committee, said the government was determined to repossess the island for national defence and economic development purposes.

Asked how the committee would compensate Li, Chen said: “We must first resolve legal issues on the case before embarking on any discussion about financial compensation.”

Li’s appeal trial to the Yangjiang Intermediate People’s Court is on Tuesday. Final verdict is not yet available.   

View Larger Map