China to improve land compensation as tensions grow

Wukan Land Grab Protest January 2012

Wukan Land Grab Protest January 2012

Chinese officials will this week discuss improving compensation for farmers whose land is expropriated, state media said on Monday, a move designed to try to quell growing rural anger over forced land seizures.

Some academics have urged the government to grant farmers greater control over their land as tensions over the sensitive issue rise creating a potential problem for the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

The official Xinhua news agency said a draft amendment to the Land Administration Law would remove a previous ceiling for calculating compensation – which farmers complained was too low – and would also ensure that money was paid out before land was expropriated.

Compensation will in future also cover rural residences, crops already planted and will include a relocation allowance and social security fees, the report said.

“Illegal expropriation of rural land frequently occurs in some regions. It has become a prominent problem endangering social stability,” Xinhua cited Song Dahan, director of the Cabinet’s Legislative Affairs Office, as saying.

“The draft amendment sets down the principle of ‘compensation and relocation first, expropriation later’,” Song said.

Farmers whose land is expropriated and who then find it hard to find a new job will be given training, employment guidance and other help in looking for work, he said.

Xinhua did not say when the new rules would take effect.

Chinese farmers do not directly own most of their fields. Instead, most rural land is owned collectively by a village and farmers get leases that last for decades.

In theory, villagers can collectively decide whether to apply to sell off or develop land. In practice, however, state officials usually decide, and hoping to win investment, revenues and pay-offs, they often override the wishes of farmers.

The number of “mass incidents” of unrest recorded by the government grew from 8,700 in 1993 to about 90,000 in 2010, according to several government-backed studies. Some estimates are higher.

The government has not released official data for recent years.

Disputes over land seizures accounted for more than 65 percent of rural “mass incidents”, the China Economic Times reported this year, citing survey data.

Source: Reuters “China to improve land compensation as tensions grow”

Categories: Human Rights & Social Issues

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