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Unrest continues in China due to government sanctioned land grabs

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Apparently in communist China not only does the farmer not own the land, but it can be seized from his collective even though he may hold a long term lease.

Tension between the food producing rural areas and increasingly industrialized urban sectors is increasing and land seizure seems to be an integral part of the struggle.

Chinese press accounts of “mass incidents” (hint – in other countries they would be called protests, demonstrations, or riots when blood is spilled) are a constant even though news outlets are tightly controlled by government censors.

Exercise of imminent domain sometimes results in legal confrontation, but we are not aware of many “mass incidents” where US land owners are able to assemble thousands of people in protest of a county re-zoning action. WE can only hope that western nations will not follow the Chinese government down this anti-property path. Perhaps we should all look around – beginning in our own home towns – for signs of this behavior so we can express our disapproval and check its growth.


  Current situation

It said there had been more than 100,000 "mass incidents" - the central government's term for large protests involving more than 100 people - every year in recent years.

Professor Chen Guangjing, editor of this year's book, said that disputes over land grabs accounted for about half of "mass incidents", while pollution and labour disputes were responsible for 30 per cent. Other kinds of disputes accounted for the remaining 20 per cent.


“Even if the compensation is increased by 100 times, these are still coercive land seizures! This is not only an issue of land compensation. The owners of collective land and state landowners should have equal rights. When the regime seeks to expropriate collective land, the farmers’ interests should not be harmed. The farmers should have the right to reject the offer, regardless of how much it is. Land acquisition by force should no longer exist,” Yang said.


The meeting passed a draft law amendment altering rules on how to compensate farmers whose "collectively owned" land is expropriated, the news agency said, without providing details.

"The government must make efforts to beef up support for farmers and place rural development in a more important position," it added.

While the comments on land seizures do not break new policy ground, they do underscore government jitters about rural discontent as President Hu Jintao prepares to hand over the running of the country to his successor, Vice President Xi Jinping, named Communist Party head this month.


This is not a new problem (articles from 2011)

The Wukan case says a lot about the serious tension between state and society in the fast urbanising China. It is difficult to play the land requisition game fairly under the current system, since farmers are neither allowed to negotiate directly on the compensation package, nor are they allowed to develop their own land for non-agricultural purposes. They have to sell their land to local government first, which defines the price then leases the land to industrial and commercial/residential users for a profit. As land prices keep rising in China, it is not surprising that farmers with rising expectations are becoming increasingly unhappy. As a result, mass incidents, sometimes as violent as in Wukan, are inevitable.



CONFLICT OVER LAND: The death of Qiang Yunhui is only the latest incident related to developers and local authorities expropriating land from villagers. In the picture, hundreds of Chinese villagers battle with local police over a land seizure in Zhaotong, in southwest China’s Yunan Province on Nov. 2, 2010. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

As the rest of the world was celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25, 2010, Qiang Yunhui died in a small town called Yueqing in Wen Zhou City, Zhejiang Province.

His neck was crushed under the left front tire of a truck, with his face against the ground, his two arms reaching up, and his head disconnected. The gruesome picture was posted online within hours of his death.

Last modified on Thursday, 20 December 2012 03:03

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