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China stresses farmers' property rights in land transfers

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-03-06 10:03

BEIJING -- China included farmers' property rights into its government report for the first time Tuesday, suggesting enhanced protection of their rights amid the country's frequent land transfers.

The report, delivered to the ongoing annual session of the national legislature, said "to guarantee farmers' property rights and interests" is the main purpose of the country's rural land system, which is "central to China's rural stability and long-term development."

Experts believe the report suggests the Chinese government will work harder to protect farmers against illegal land grabs and facilitate land transfers to boost rural productivity.

China places its rural land under collective ownership, giving farmers the management rights over their contracted land and the right of use over their homestead lots.

The government, however, still holds the power to reclaim rural land, often for profitable development projects. Power abuses and low compensations have fueled protests among rural residents in recent years.

Qin Zhonghua, an official at the agriculture committee of the central Anhui province, said China should confirm farmers' property rights as rural land has become a much-pursued resource.

"If the farmers' land rights continued to be unclear, their rights in land transfers could not be guaranteed, nor could land resources be used to achieve more value," Qin said.

Experts said chaotic land management and unsettled land claims have also proved a hurdle for China's rural development. In many cases, such problems have impeded cooperative farms from acquiring enough land for efficient production.

"Many rural assets have long been used inefficiently, and they failed to improve farmers' incomes in a way they should have," said Ma Xiaohe, deputy chief of the Academy of Macro-economic Research with the National Development and Reform Commission.

The government should relax restrictions on farmers' use of their properties, including land and homestead, and allow them to transform such assets into wealth in currency or capital forms, said Wang Kaiyu, an Anhui-based sociologist and expert in rural issues.

China has vowed to reform the land expropriation system to improve farmers' wellbeing. A report to last year's 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) promised that farmers should gain more when their land increases in value.

China's first policy document for 2013, dubbed as the No.1 central policy, also said the country would complete registration and confirmation for farmers' rights over contracted land in five years.

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