Farmers' rights and interests top priority of rural land-use reform
BEIJING - Local governments have been warned not to abuse the rural land-use reform by forcibly occupying farmers' land and demolishing their homes.
China's State Council, or Cabinet, said protecting rural residents' rights and interests must always be the top priority of the reform.
A circular published on the central government's website (www.gov.cn) said measures must be taken to correct anything done wrongly.
The reform, which began in 2008, is intended to encourage rural dwellers to move from old homes into new residential buildings while the houses would be demolished and land is cultivated into farmland.
The move is designed to add farmland while improving farmers' living conditions.
China faces a challenge of balancing land use as the country has to preserve sufficient farmland for food production, while cities are expanding into rural areas.
The reform, a pilot program in selected areas, allows local governments to use a portion of land, often the same amount as the newly added farmland, for urban construction.
But the circular said some local governments abused the policy by putting excessive land for urban property development, which had resulted in problems such as the forced eviction of farmers.
Local governments in more than 20 provinces have been found to have forced farmers to abandon their homes and to move into department buildings, the Ministry of Land and Resources said.
In January 2010, dozens of villagers in Batou village of Jiangsu province were beaten up after they had rejected the forced demolitions of their homes by the local government and its order to move into department buildings, Beijing News reported.
Such moves are banned and the farmers' decisions should be taken into consideration, the circular said.
Local governments are likely to sell the right of land use to developers as a way to boost revenues and local GDP.
The circular ordered that local government officials be held responsible for exchanging farmland for construction land without approval.
In addition, the State Council said the aim of the reform should be to increase grain output and improve the livelihood of farmers.
"Farmers' interests must be always put first and their wishes must be fully respected," said the circular.
The land gained through moving farmers to new apartment buildings should first be reclaimed as farmland and then used for rural development. A portion of what is left can be used for urban construction with the approval of authorities.
But benefits from any increase in the value of the land must be returned to the countryside, the circular said.
From this month, the Ministry of Land and Resources will draft measures of punishments and corrections that will be imposed in cases of illegal land uses, Hu Cunzhi, the ministry's chief planner, said in February.
Local land authorities, meanwhile, will begin to crack down on these acts during that period, Hu said.
China Daily - Xinhua