Legislation is being prepared to give private property owners greater legal protection, Xinhua reported yesterday. The draft legislation, which has been included in the National People's Congress Standing Committee's legislative agenda, is expected to become law before the committee's five-year term ends in 2002. The committee has begun to review the draft legislation, which was prepared by Liang Huixing, a legal scholar from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Legal Institute. According to Xinhua, the draft will help implement an amendment of the constitution made last March that redefined the private sector as an 'important component' of, instead of a 'complement' to, the socialist market economy. Critics have said the amendments should have given private property exactly the same status as state-owned property which is 'inviolable' under the constitution. The draft law will give 'equal protection' to all forms of property provided it was obtained by legal means. Quoting legal experts, Xinhua said the draft law would include new rules in dealing with demolition, assets registration, land sale and transfer of property ownership. The experts admitted many people were reluctant to own property in China or had tried to have their wealth deposited in foreign banks because they feared they were not protected by domestic law. 'Even ordinary people suffered when they exchanged or traded their properties,' Xinhua said. Meanwhile, the Guangdong People's Congress Standing Committee recently passed a regulation to bolster the private sector. The regulation mainly dealt with overcharging and collection of illegal fees by government departments and the procedures under which private companies could hire engineers and technicians.