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Complaints on home demolitions soar
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-05 22:26

The number of complaints lodged with the country's land and construction overseer has skyrocketed.

More complaints related to homes demolished to make way for property developments were filed in the first half of this year than in all of 2003, the Beijing News reported.

"To June 22, about 18,620 people contacted the (Ministry of Construction) to appeal for help, which has already surpassed the number from last year of 18,071 people," said the newspaper.

In the first quarter of this year alone, the number of complaints was triple the number received in the same period last year, the ministry confirmed.

A similar situation has developed at the Ministry of Land and Resources. Most of the complaints there are from farmers upset that their farmland had been taken away for other business activities.

The State Council said last month that China would demolish far fewer buildings this year to cut down on widespread and sometimes violent protests.

"Construction authorities should have had a clear mind towards the abnormal housing boom during which half market's demands were met by the demolition of old buildings," Fu Wenjuan, vice-minister of construction, told the newspaper.

Fu said the growing number of complaints can be blamed on increased urban construction which has led to an increase in the demolition of old buildings.

"Some regional housing projects have exceeded local economic growth and the demands of locals as well," Fu said.

As a result, some newly built urban public facilities were never used and the land and money spent was wasted.

"Problems have thus been triggered by local authorities who borrow money for such construction," she said.

Adding insult to injury, some local governments or companies affiliated with them have reduced compensation for residents forced to move or forced them to move quickly.

"This hurts the credibility of the entire society," the vice-minister warned.

The ministry started moving to allay fears of a collapse in China's booming property market, saying prices would continue to rise gradually during the rest of the year.

Xie Jiajin, director of the ministry's property department, said on China Central Television that the property sector was "returning to a rational path."

There is no possibility of a collapse in the market, she said.

Xie's remarks came after figures were released showing a slight slowdown in the growth in property investment and prices.

Investment increase in the property sector in the first five months of this year was 2.6 per cent points lower than that in the January-April period, according to the latest statistics.

The increase in the total area of newly developed land throughout China in the first five months was 12.4 per cent points lower than that from January to April.

The number of ground broken by developers for new housing projects during the period also went down 0.6 per cent as compared with growth from January to April.

Although the average price of residential accommodation in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing remained high, Xie blamed earlier price increases on speculative buying.

She predicted residential property prices would grow steadily in the coming months, pushed by strong demand from people buying properties to live in rather than for speculation.

To hold back the rapidly developing sector, at the beginning of the year China began putting in place measures to tighten loans extended by banks to the sector, control land supply and restrict house demolitions.

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