Government acts to guarantee farmers' rights
The Ministry of Land and Resources on Friday pledged to step up efforts to ensure farmers receive compensation for lost cultivated land resulting from various land requisition projects.
Local governments of all levels owe a total of 2.9 billion yuan (US$350 million) in compensations to these farmers, said Pan Wencan, director of the Planning Department at the ministry.
Pan made the remarks at a news conference announcing the results of the 2003 Chinese Land and Resources Review, which states the country has lost about 6.7 million hectares of cultivated land in a seven-year period.
The number of farmers having become landless during the process is estimated at around 40 million.
Liu Deshui, a 60-year-old farmer from the village of Yuanyi in the Jinzhou District of Dalian, a coastal city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province, had mixed feelings about the news.
Liu and his fellow villagers have been in the media spotlight lately, portrayed as typical victims of the misconduct of the local government.
After being requisitioned by the local government in 2002, their profitable shrimp ponds, which had been converted from grain fields, have already been developed into golf courses. As they have lost their only means to make a living, the villagers are still waiting for compensation.
Although the ministry studied the case last year and demanded the district government pay out the compensation, the farmers still have not received any money, said Liu.
But Pan said the government would remedy the situation for farmers who had a situation like Liu's by pressing the responsible officials to act quickly.
The State Council has drawn up a campaign to tackle these kinds of problems and curb misconduct in land requisition cases. The campaign is expected to begin mid-month.
Pan said he believes an improved land use order can help safeguard farmers' rights.
Take the golf course in Yuanyi for example. It was never approved by the ministry, though it should have fallen under related Chinese laws which stipulate that only 70 hectares of land can be taken over at one time.
Of the country's 176 golf courses, only 10 have been acquired properly through the land use programme.
This is the reason the ministry adopted a strict land monitoring system earlier this year requiring local governments to report land use changes to the ministry every quarter year.
A national inquiry into land abuses was carried out by the Ministry of Land and Resources last year. It confirmed that many farmers have either not been compensated or have received very little.
Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this year in his report to the National People's Congress in March that the government should see to ensuring that landless farmers receive proper compensation.