Land investigation nabs 2,700 officials

(China Daily/Xinhua)
Updated: 2008-01-23 08:56

More than 2,700 officials face prosecution on land use violation charges following investigations by the disciplinary and supervisory authorities, the Ministry of Land Resources said on Tuesday.

A further 1,000 officials are under investigation.

They are all allegedly involved in 31,000 land use violation cases, Minister of Land and Resources, Xu Shaoshi, said at a televised conference on the results of a 100-day campaign.

The campaign, launched on Sept 17, was to curb local governments illegally transferring household land to property developers. It targeted officials who failed to seek permission from higher authorities for land use and those who ignored rules to expand the size of development zones.

About 20,000 hectares of land were taken over in the name of leases, 66,666 hectares were involved in the expansion of development zones and 1.3 million hectares were used without authorization, Xu said.

The courts have so far convicted more than 300 people, punishing them with fines and confiscating property worth up to 2 billion yuan ($276 million).

Xu said the campaign proved that land supervision must have the support of local governments.

"Perpetrators must pay a high price," he said.

He also called for more cooperation between departments such as the police, courts and supervisory authorities.

Land violation is a controversial issue in China and in 2004 the central government implemented a strict land management policy. The policy, however, has hit many obstacles at the local level.

Some government officials still seek to attract capital and technology by offering investors cheap or even free land, a practice that was rife along the east coast early in China's economic reform and opening up. Land remains a steady source of fiscal revenue for local governments.

Some governments have illegally restored development zones closed down years ago or allowed managements of legal development zones to invite new businesses for abolished ones.

Since the launch in 2003 of a national plan to shut down inefficient and idle development zones, the number of zones has fallen by more than 70 percent to 1,568. By the end of 2006, their combined land area had fallen to 9,949 sq km.

Rapid urbanization has also triggered outrage from some farmers not properly compensated for appropriated land. It has led to a drastic decline in the land available for cultivation, prompting the government to set a minimum of 120 million hectares of arable land.

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