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Landless farmers 'must be helped'
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-08 05:55

When landless farmers suffer, lawmaker Zhou Hongyu says he feels sorrow . Now he and other legislators want to empower the rural residents with a new statute.

As legislators meet in Beijing this week for the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), the plight of farmers who have lost land to redevelopment projects was again put in the spotlight.

"Failure to protect the basic rights of these farmers may cause social instability," Zhou said yesterday. "We must formulate a law on safeguarding their social welfare."

In recent years, at least 65 per cent of protests that have occurred in rural areas have been sparked by problems arousing from land acquisitions, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.

Urbanization and industrialization in China uses nearly 200,000 hectares of farmland each year, said Chen Xiwen, deputy office chief of the central government's Central Leading Group of Financial Work.

A recent survey by experts headed by Liu Shouying, of the State Council Development Research Centre, found that farmers are usually under-compensated, partly because they have little say in the land acquisition process and some portions of the money go to "village undertakings."

Legislation motion

In his preparation for the legislation motion, lawmaker Zhou said the compensation paid to acquire land from farmers, and relocate them, averaged 18,000 yuan (US$2,222) per person in some western regions, which could only provide a modest subsistence for a family for a few years.

Although official statistics put the country's landless farmers at 40 million, Zhou said the number may be nearer 50 million, with 2 million joining the group each year.

Some localities have offered farmers lump sums of compensation, but that could not sustain their life for a long time, said Zhou, a former civil affairs official in Central China's Hubei Province.

Yang Caishou, another legislator, from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, agreed. "Once farmers use up that sum of money, many of them end up helpless because they do lack adequate skills to become employed."

"I propose for the NPC Standing Committee to include a law on safeguarding the social security of landless farmers in its legislation plan," Zhou said.

The proposed statute should improve the land acquisition process to make it "open and fair," in which farmers enjoy the full right to know.

Training the landless farmers and finding jobs for them in other sectors will be another important chapter of the new legislation, he said.

Chen Yangzhen, another national legislator from East China's Zhejiang Province, said it should be made mandatory that at least 10 per cent of income from land acquisition should be used to establish a fund for farmers' pensions.

(China Daily 03/08/2006 page3)

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