Beijing - A senior land administrator has pledged tough measures to curb the illegal use of land, especially for the construction of real estate, luxury villas and golf courses.
Li Jianqin, director of the law enforcement and supervision department of the Ministry of Land and Resources, said on Thursday that there were a total of 53,000 cases of illegal land use across the country in 2010, which gives an indication of the scale of the challenge posed by seeking to protect this scarce resource.
The cases involved 27,866 hectares of land, an increase of 1.1 percent on 2009, Li said at a press conference.
Moreover, about 10,933 hectares of the total land illegally used in 2010 were on arable land.
Li said the ministry managed to reclaim about 2,867 hectares of land last year.
And 2,582 people were punished for illegally using land last year, with 239 of them being criminally convicted, he added.
According to statistics from the ministry, more than 2.5 billion yuan ($378 million) in fines were issued in China last year for the illegal use of land.
The use of land in 2,895 cities is monitored by satellite surveillance, a practice China began in 2000 with an initial 66 cities in 25 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
Li said satellite imaging has played a significant role in protecting the country's land supply by helping detect cases in which it is being illegally used.
In June 2008, Beijing Hongfenghu Ecological Garden Co Ltd illegally occupied 65 hectares of land, to build a golf course. The land was all reclaimed by the ministry by the end of December 2010.
From December 2009 to September 2010, the Three Gorges Hongming Tourism and Real Estate Development Company in Yichang, Hubei province, illegally used 42 hectares of land to build golf courses, villas and entertainment facilities.
Since May 2009, Xiaobu Village Ecological Garden Investment and Development Company illegally built a golf course on 143 hectares of land and the course opened on Sept 30, 2010.
The ministry has required local land and resources bureaus to look into these cases and publicize the punitive measures that were taken in the first quarter of this year.
To protect the country's shrinking land resources, the central government imposed a moratorium on building golf courses in 2004.
But many developers have defied the ban, proceeding with building golf courses and luxury villas without the proper authorization.
The State-owned Nanbin Farm Company in Hainan province took over 17 hectares of land to build unauthorized villas in 2008. The company was fined more than 4.3 million yuan by a local court in July 2010.
In April 2008, Jinjiang land and resources bureau in Fujian province illegally allowed the Yuanhang Real Estate Development Company to proceed with a construction project for villas, which went against the central government's notice on restructuring the housing supply in a bid to stabilize prices.
"The results of all these cases will be released by the ministry before the end of the first quarter this year," Li said.
The ministry will release cases of illegal land use every quarter and issue a yearly report on the basis of satellite images.