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Farmers need patience for improved legislation

Updated: 2013-02-26 07:20
By Zhao Yinan ( China Daily)

Chinese farmers may still have a long wait before the cap on compensation for rural land expropriation is scrapped, as a long-expected amendment that promises more aid to landless farmers failed to make lawmakers' latest agenda.

The amendment to the Land Administration Law, which removes the limit on rural property compensation during land expropriation, was not included for discussion during the ongoing session of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the top legislature.

The session, scheduled from Monday to Wednesday, was the last bi-monthly meeting that the 11th NPC Standing Committee will have for law deliberation before the newly elected lawmakers of the 12th NPC start working in early March.

Experts said the exclusion of the draft from the agenda indicates farmers still have to wait before amounts for land compensation can be improved.

Jiang Ming'an, an administrative law professor at Peking University, said the earliest possibility for lawmakers to read the draft might be in April, after the members of the new NPC Standing Committee are elected.

He said the first session of the new NPC Standing Committee usually starts in late March, right after they are elected from around 3,000 deputies to the NPC at its annual session.

"Often lawmakers do not read law drafts during the first session," he said, "The second session is normally scheduled in late April."

The land draft, which was put for first reading in December, has proposed making the improvement of farmers' living standards a premise before land seizure is carried out. It proposed to scrap the cap on land compensation, which the standing laws said was not to exceed 30 times the land's average annual output in the previous three years.

The draft, which could potentially influence property rights for millions of rural residents in China and coming at a time when the country's new leadership has put a lot of weight on urbanization to drive economic growth, has so far not been released to the public to solicit suggestions following the NPC Standing Committee's December session.

Although it is not mandatory for the top legislature to release draft laws to ask for public input, it has become routine practice in recent years if the law does not involve State secrets.

Four professors known for their research on rural development told China Daily they have not been asked to give advice on the subject.

Jiang said that might reflect a prudent attitude of the NPC on the revision.

"Probably they want to do more research and add new changes, instead of revising it in a rush," he said.

Song Dahan, director of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office, explained to lawmakers in December that the most prominent problem of land seizure is compensation, and stipulations on that subject mainly come in the 47th article in the land law.

"So our office suggests to revise the 47th article first to clear the way for offering better compensation and resettlement for farmers and allow our office to work out the regulation," Song said.

Song's office is also responsible for drafting the amendment to the Land Administration Law.

Dang Guoying, a researcher on rural development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he is optimistic about the revision.

"Although opinions are divided on many issues about rural land expropriation, the draft amendment would easily pass the congress as it only contains one clause on compensation," he said.

Premier Wen Jiabao proposed last March to set up a regulation on rural land expropriation during his last year in office, to ensure the property rights of farmers.

The regulation is expected to include detailed stipulations regarding the procedures of rural land seizure and better compensation for farmers, although experts said its legislative process is likely to be postponed, since it can only be initiated after its upper law - the Land Administration Law - is revised.

Gan Zangchun, former vice-minister of land and resources and a veteran land law expert, was appointed deputy director of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office in February, an arrangement that was widely expected to finalize the long-awaited legislation.