New governing ideal
New regulations for the resettlement and compensation of residents displaced because of the construction of hydropower and irrigation projects will take effect on September 1. They will replace the previous regulations promulgated in 1991.
Compared with the previous ones, the revisions and new clauses in the new regulations reflect some fundamental changes in the guiding principles concerning the interests of the displaced residents.
The previous regulations demand that both the displacement and resettlement of residents submit to the general interest of the State.
The principles in the new regulations are totally different. The new document says that the compensation and resettlement must be carried out in a human-centred manner, the legal rights and interests of the displaced residents must be guaranteed and the needs of their development must be met.
Specific stipulations have been made in the new regulations to protect the interests of the displaced residents. A clause says the displaced residents' living standards must be kept at least the same as what they used to be.
This is also progress compared with the previous regulations, which say the compensation and resettlement should gradually raise the residents' living standards to their original level. Such an ambiguous rule provided loopholes that local officials could take advantage of. They could withhold or misappropriate or even embezzle the special fund for compensation and resettlement on the grounds that they would gradually improve the living standards of the migrated residents.
The compensation for resettlement and loss of land was only three times as much as the average output value the acquisitioned land had produced in the previous three years, according to the previous regulations. The new rules have raised the compensation to 16 times.
Even more praiseworthy is the fact that the new regulations have included the rights of the displaced people, which their predecessors had never mentioned. The rules stipulate that any displaced resident can lodge complaints with governments above county level or relevant migrant administration departments, and also can file lawsuits against any officials or government institutions they believe to have infringed upon their rights and interests.
The new regulations also require that programmes for the migration and resettlement of residents should be made only after listening to the opinions of the people who are to be displaced and of those people in the places where the migrants will be resettled. If necessary, hearings should be held, according to the regulations. The previous regulations did not contain such a requirement.
The two sets of regulations represent different governing concepts. The concept epitomized in the new rules shows more respect to residents and treats them as citizens who have both obligations and rights.
We hope such a concept will materialize during the process of putting the regulations into practice.