April 21, 2011 / 5:56 AM / 8 years ago

China to adopt new law to end violence in forced demolitions

BEIJING (Reuters) - China is set to adopt a law aimed at ending the use of violence, intimidation and other illegal means for forced demolitions of homes, a top legal expert was quoted as saying Thursday, as the government addresses an issue that has sparked public anger.

A labourer uses a sledgehammer to smash concrete at a demolition site making way for a residential area in Xiangfan, Hubei province October 21, 2010. REUTERS

Property disputes in a country where the government legally owns all land have led to unruly protests, fights with police, imprisonment and even suicide, and created a headache for the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

The official China Daily quoted Ying Songnian, a senior legal expert on administrative laws, as saying that the latest draft being discussed by the largely rubber stamp legislature was “close to implementation, despite minor defects.”

The draft law was submitted to the National People’s Congress for its fourth review Wednesday, two years after it was last reviewed, the central government said in a statement on its website. (www.gov.cn).

Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy director of parliament’s law committee, told lawmakers that the fourth draft also sought to “protect people’s legal rights and supervise administrations in the performance of their duties in accordance with the law.”

The legislation follows on from rules issued in January by the government to ease public anger over demolitions, generally carried out by either private or state-linked companies but with the acquiescence of local governments. The rules promised fair prices to homeowners losing their property and an end to forced demolitions without legal approval.

Chinese media group Caixin said in January that 2010 marked the worst year for housing demolitions, citing a report from the China Construction Management and Property Law Research Centre. The report said that more local governments were taking the place of demolition or relocation companies in forced evictions.

Standoffs in property disputes often turn violent, pitting residents against police and hired thugs.

In late 2010, a village activist, Qian Yunhui, who had protested for years against a government-backed land acquisition dispute, was crushed to death by a truck.

His death triggered a firestorm of Internet comment and grassroots campaigns claiming Qian was killed as payback in his dispute with local officials.

Officials and police officers in Wenzhou, the coastal area where Qian died, said it had been an accident. But photographs of Qian’s head and torso, mangled under the back tyre of the truck, spread across the Internet, followed by images of confrontations between villagers and police in anti-riot gear.

Last November, villagers in southwestern China overturned and set ablaze dozens of vehicles in a protest over what they said was an illegal land grab for a construction project.

Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ken Wills and Ron Popeski

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