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Ministry Gets Tough on Land Use

More than 2,700 officials have been referred for prosecution on land-use violation charges after investigations by the discipline and supervisory authorities, the Ministry of Land Resources said yesterday.

Along with another 1,000 people still being investigated, they were allegedly involved in 31,000 cases involving more than 217,800 hectares, said Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi at a conference on the results of a 100-day campaign.

The campaign, launched on September 17 last year, was implemented to crack down on local governments that illegally transferred household land to property developers.

It targeted officials who failed to seek permission from higher authorities for land use and those who flouted decrees to expand the size of development zones.

About 19,800 hectares of land were taken over in the name of leases, 67,000 hectares involved expanded development zones and 134,000 hectares was used without authorization, said Xu.

The courts had convicted more than 300 people, punishing them with fines and confiscating properties worth up to two billion yuan (US$274 million).

He said the campaign proved land supervision must win support from local governments. "Perpetrators should pay a high price for what they have done."

He also urged more efforts in establishing a warning system of land violation behavior and stronger liaison between departments such as the police, courts and supervisory watchdogs.

Land violation has become a controversial issue in China and in 2004 the central government order promulgated to implement "the strictest land management policy."

Since then, the order has hit many snags at local level. Some government officials still sought to attract capital and technology by offering investors cheap or even free land.

Land yields remain a steady source of fiscal revenue for local governments.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2008)

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