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Political Advisor Calls for Stricter Control in Land Expropriation

China should tighten land expropriation, said a political advisor at the ongoing session of the 11th National Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on Saturday.

China's current law on land management stipulates that governments can expropriate collectively owned land "for public interests", but there is no specification what public interests mean, said Liang Jiyang, a researcher with the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"The term should be clearly defined to curb land seizures, and compensation should be paid in full," he said, adding land expropriation generates huge profits.

"The price of land is many times the compensation the government pays in expropriation," he said. "The huge difference lured some local government to seek profits from land."

Over expropriation has led to sharp decrease of arable land, said the researcher.

Currently the acreage of arable land in China is 121.8 million hectares or 0.09 hectares per person, which is respectively 8.3 million and 0.11 hectares down from 1996 and less than 40 percent of world's average level.

Liang estimated that China's population could grow to 1.6 billion, who need at least 120 million hectares of land to ensure enough food.

Land expropriation leaves nearly 50 million farmers with few land who have become a vulnerable group prone to mass incidences to threaten social stability, he said.

Land monopoly also fueled rising house prices in China, added Liang. Despite government efforts in cooling the red-hot housing market, real estate prices in major Chinese cities in January still jumped 11.3 percent over the same month last year, according to an earlier report.

China adopted the landmark property law last March. In a move to better protect farmers from land seizures, which frequently caused public anger, the law stresses the protection of arable lands, promising strict restrictions in the transformation of land from agricultural use to construction projects.

(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2008)

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