Bloomberg News

Wen Urges Protection for Farmer Rights, Stop to Land Grabs

December 28, 2011

(Updates with land sale statistics in sixth paragraph.)

Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called on officials to better protect the rights of farmers and ensure they receive a bigger share of profits from the conversion of their land to industrial and residential use.

“We can no longer sacrifice farmers’ land ownership rights to reduce urbanization and industrialization costs,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported Wen as saying at an annual national work conference on rural affairs yesterday. “It’s both necessary and possible for us to significantly increase farmers’ gains from the increase in land value.”

Wen’s comments follow a victory by residents of a southern Chinese village this month who staged a two-week protest that forced authorities to back down in a dispute over land. Strikes, demonstrations and other protests in China doubled to at least 180,000 in 2010 from four years earlier, according to Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Wen also said rural residents shouldn’t be forced to give up their rights to land even if they move to cities.

“No one is empowered to take away such rights,” Wen was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency.

About 40 percent of local government revenue came from land sales last year, according to China Real Estate Information Corp., a property data and consulting firm.

Wukan Protests

Last week, the residents of the southern village of Wukan called off a protest march after a senior Communist Party official from Guangdong province promised to release villagers detained by police, address flaws in electing local officials and redistribute land that had been sold off unfairly.

The unrest in Wukan first began in September, when disputes over land, local elections and village finances between residents and local officials led protesters to attack police and overturn cars, according to the Shanwei city government. Protests flared again this month after police detained five villagers on accusations that they had led demonstrations and one of the men, Xue Jinbo, died while in custody on Dec. 11.

The decision to meet the villagers’ demands is part of a wider government strategy aimed at containing such protests before they spread, according to Joseph Cheng, a politics professor at the City University of Hong Kong. The standoff and other protests have sparked concerns that unrest stemming from China’s growth could undermine the Communist Party’s rule.

Thousands of villagers near the city of Shantou, also in Guangdong, called off their protests over a planned power station when officials promised to suspend work, Xinhua reported.

‘Improve Skills’

Separately, a senior Party official in Guangdong province, where Wukan is located, also called officials to improve their skills in dealing with public’s complaints and claims and take quick response, according to Xinhua.

“It is imperative for us to improve our work in response to complaints and claims from the people as ideas of democracy, equality and rights are taking root among the public,” said Zhu Mingguo, vice secretary of the Guangdong provincial committee of the Communist Party of China, at a recent stability maintenance workshop.

“We need to resolve issues of people’s immediate interests and concerns in a timely manner,” said, Zhu, who was the key government official who initiated the negotiations to end the protests in Wukan.

--Zheng Lifei. Editors: Ben Richardson, Stephanie Wong.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Zheng Lifei in Beijing at lzheng32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Wong at swong139@bloomberg.net


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