Mainland authorities have published the first list of local government officials punished over the misuse of land, but most of the more than 70 officials got 'warnings' and 'demerit records' - which experts say are unlikely to affect their careers.
Forty-four local government leaders from across the mainland and 29 chiefs of local land resources departments, all at city or county levels, were punished for their poor regulation of the misuse of land in 2009, the Ministry of Supervision said on its website on Thursday after a joint conference with the Ministry of Land and Resources.
Several of the officials on the list have since been promoted. A cadre who was a mayor in Datong county, Shanxi , two years ago is now the secretary of another county's Communist Party committee, a higher-ranking position, according to the Ministry of Supervision's list. Two other similar cases were also found.
According to the Rules on Punishment for Breaching Land Administration Regulations, punishment can include warnings, recording demerits, demotion or dismissal, but only one of the 73 cadres was demoted. The rest either received warnings or had demerits noted in their records.
Li Jianqin, the head of the Ministry of Land and Resources' law enforcement department, told China Central Television on Thursday that central supervisors had taken 'concrete action'.
But Professor Mao Shoulong, who specialises in administration management at Renmin University, said the punishment was too light to serve any meaningful purpose. He said many of the cadres who were found to have allowed farmland to be used for commercial development or allowed land to be used for purposes other than claimed in development applications, had done so under pressure from superiors at higher levels of government. 'Some of them would have lost their jobs if they didn't do so. So they'd rather risk a warning or reprimand,' he said.
In October, Land and Resources Minister Xu Shaoshi said top officials involved in serious cases of land misuse would be punished according to government and party rules and may face criminal charges.
Professor Liu Xutao, from the Chinese Academy of Governance, said trouble getting bank loans and processing land-use applications - and greater pressure from the central leadership to build affordable housing projects - meant local governments faced many fiscal problems, and that had encouraged the misuse of land. 'The central government's repeated calls to accelerate the building of affordable housing means local governments need to spend more, while stricter rules on land use means they can make less money from selling land,' he said.