China to boost land payout law after unrest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2012, 6:45pm

China’s cabinet has passed a legal amendment aimed at boosting compensation for rural land confiscations, a major source of popular unrest, state-run media said on Friday.

The legislation could increase payments 10-fold yet still be insufficient to defuse the problem, the Global Times said, which did not provide exact details of the law but cited analyst concerns such as the need to ensure farmers’ rights.

The changes “which experts say will benefit farmers amid frequent land disputes in China’s rural areas, may not be sufficient or effective”, it said.

China’s State Council passed the draft amendment on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “too much rural land has been expropriated too quickly”, a trend that “affects stability in the countryside”.

The amendment will now go for approval to the standing committee, or top body, of the national legislature, a largely rubberstamp organisation.

China’s ruling Communist Party fears social unrest could threaten its control, and last year the state-affiliated China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said land grabs provoked the majority of the 180,000 protests reported in 2010.

A high-profile uprising took place last year in the southern village of Wukan, where authorities had sold off farmland without informing farmers.

By law, officials may provide compensation worth up to 30 times the value of the land’s output, but in practice they have skimped on payments or foregone them altogether –then sold the land to developers at much higher rates.

The average value of land sales rose 360 per cent between 1995 and 2005 while compensation amounts only increased by 50 per cent, Liao Hongle, a ministry of agriculture researcher, said in the China Business News on Friday.

Although the new legislation could benefit farmers, it needed to be transparent or “it will be meaningless”, the Global Times quoted a Wukan protest leader, Zhang Jianxing, as saying.

Farmers also needed to have their rights protected in land compensation deals, the paper quoted Yu Jianrong, a CASS expert, as saying in an online discussion.

“Farmers should have the right to bargain and say no to land expropriation, and this right can’t be taken away because of some official compensation standard,” Yu said.