BEIJING - New rules concerning house expropriation and demolition have tested the Chinese government's ability to balance the country's economic and social development and the protection of ordinary people's interests, experts say.
The State Council, China's cabinet, published a regulation on expropriation and compensation of houses on state-owned lands earlier this month, putting an end to forced demolitions in cities without due process and fair compensation -- which had become a major source of social conflict.
Wang Liming, professor of Renmin University of China, said, "Even as house expropriation and demolition are essential to meet the public interest in the country's fast economic and social development, we must improve the protection on property owners' interests, by standardizing demolition and relocation procedures."
The new regulation sets down rules for compensation first and relocation later, forbidding the use of violence or coercion to evict homeowners.
The previous regulation on home demolition on urban lands, which went into effect in 2001 and had been replaced by the new regulation, had authorized local governments to enforce demolition at their own will.
The regulation also rules out land developers' involvement in demolition and relocation procedures.
"The protection of property owners' interests are enhanced, as the new regulation clearly outlaws forced demolition. It will help defuse long-standing social strains and help maintain social stability," Wang said.
As one of the tragedies caused by forced demolition, demolition workers last October broke into a house slated for demolition that belonged to a 54-year-old man in Shanxi Province. The owner, who had earlier refused to leave, was pulled from the house and beaten to death.
Xue Gangling, president of China University of Political Science and Law, said, "The administrative authorities hope to safeguard public interests and minimize the risk of instability through the legal and judicial systems."
Shen Kui, a law professor at Peking University, said if the new regulation is enforced strictly, the frequency of forced demolitions will fall.
First reviewed at an executive meeting of the State Council in December 2007, the draft regulation was discussed at 45 seminars by about 1,150 people.
To better absorb public opinion, the draft was made public twice, in January and December 2010.
The cabinet's Legislative Affairs Office received more than 100,000 public submissions during the process, with forced demolition and fair compensation the major public concerns. Revisions were made to the draft regulation accordingly.
One principle of the new regulation is that expropriation of homes should improve, not impair, the living standards of the home owners, according to the Legislative Affairs Office.
The new regulation ensures that compensation for expropriated homes is no lower than the market price of similar properties.
The new regulation ensures the use of market prices to determine compensation, and is also in line with the provisions of the Property Law that took effect in 2007, said Wang Liming, professor of Renmin University of China.