The State Council has issued a decree reiterating its determination to adopt strict rules to stop rampant misuse of land throughout the country.
The document, issued on Friday and entitled 'The Decision on Deepening Reforms and Strengthening Land Management', vows to track down government officials who fail to enforce the land management law it issued two months ago.
Local and central government officials held responsible for illegal land transfers will face punishment ranging from disciplinary penalties - black marks on their records - to criminal charges, according to the decree. The document calls for provincial governments to exercise tight supervision over areas most susceptible to illegal land use.
The power to approve land use changes resides only with central and provincial governments, the decree says. Government officials must put an end to cheap sales of farmland and the misuse of farmland for industrial construction and real estate development. 'Adopting a strict land management system is required by the situation of our country, featuring a large population and a lack of cultivatable land,' the document says.
It adds that since last year, all provinces had been carrying out central government policies to keep an eye out for development zone proposals and temporarily halt approvals for projects seeking to use farmland for other purposes.
The campaign to control land management has achieved considerable results but problems such as irrational investment, poorly planned and overlapping construction projects and the misuse of farmland, still exist.
The State Council issued a comprehensive package of land regulations in October, promising to put strict land management rules into practice in order to protect arable land and farmers' interests.
The Ministry of Land and Resources reiterated its commitment to crack down on illegal land acquisitions on Thursday, while at the same time saying it will support key projects that feature high on the national economic development agenda. Major projects focused on energy, communications, water conservation, urban infrastructure, education and national defence will still be given the green light.
The ministry will also back projects aimed at developing the western regions of the country and rejuvenating old industrial bases in the northeast. Earlier this year, the ministry launched a nationwide campaign to examine 81,962 developments on 792,600 hectares of land. Of those, 7,184 on 36,500 hectares were declared illegal.