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Officials punished for forced demolition

By Zhu Shanshan  (Global Times)

15:14, September 27, 2011

Six of the 11 cases were illegal demolitions, while the other five followed the regulations but involved the use of "violent means," according to the joint statement released by the Ministry of Supervisions, Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the State Council Office for Rectifying Malpractice.

Authorities released the results of investigations into 11 forced demolition cases that happened in the first half of the year, revealing that 57 local government officials had been punished for disciplinary violations.

The punishments meted out to these officials included serious warnings, suspension and expulsion from the Communist Party of China, said a statement jointly issued Sunday by the Ministry of Supervisions, Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and the State Council Office for Rectifying Malpractice.

There are 31 people currently under investigation for criminal offenses during the demolitions, the statement said, without elaborating on whether they are among those punished officials.

All the cases happened after the State Council promulgated the new Regulations on Expropriation and Compensation for Houses on State-owned Land in January.
According to the statement, six of the 11 cases were illegal demolitions, while the other five followed the regulations but involved the use of "violent means."

In one of the cases, hundreds of workers employed by a local real estate company, hired as a government sub-contractor, tore down a building in Changchun, Jilin Province in March without reaching an agreement on removal and compensation with residents.

Liu Shuxiang, a 48-year-old female resident, was buried alive when the building collapsed. Under the debris, Liu called the police four times through her cell phone, but the police did not arrive at the scene until 50 minutes later.

Her relatives also called Mayor Cui Jie's public hotline for help, but received no response. Police at the scene refused to search for Liu at first as the demolition squad told them that no one was in the building. Liu eventually suffocated to death, and her body was pulled out two days later.

The Ministry of Supervision has asked Cui to openly apologize for his part in the incident.

When contacted, the Changchun government refused to comment on the issue, and its official website had no information about the demolition or any apology to the public.

The State Council regulations published in January require that no violence or coercion be used in attempts to evict homeowners before demolitions. Measures such as illegally cutting off water and power supplies are also forbidden.

It stipulates that all demolitions must be conducted through due process, such as public opinion hearings and fair compensation for the homeowners. Any such activities need approval from a local court.

However, in one of the 11 cases, Wang Jiazheng, a 58-year-old farmer in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province set himself on fire on April 22 when an excavator began tearing down his house. The demolition was backed by a verdict from the local court saying that Wang's family had not moved out in time after receiving an ultimatum from the local land bureau.

The Xinhua News Agency commented that the 11 cases had caught the attention of authorities because they involved human casualties, although many more forced demolitions go unpunished nationwide.

"Fast urbanization has drastically increased the number of house removals and land transfers. To stop illegal demolitions, authorities need to hand down much tougher and wider punishments to violators. The supervision of local governments in this regard also needs readjustment," it said.

It warned that many local governments care too much about the massive economic benefits from land sales, which drive them to ignore laws and regulations.

Revenue from land transfers rose to 2.9 trillion yuan ($453 billion) last year, up 106.2 percent year-on-year, according to Finance Minister Xie Xuren.

Land transfers and forced demolitions have led to increasing cases of suicide protests by owners who complain of unfair compensation.

A suicide attacker planted three bombs targeting local government buildings in Fuzhou, Jiangxi Province in May after years of petitions concerning his dismantled house. The attacks killed three people, including the bomber himself.

Yu Jianrong, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that given the lucrative returns from land sales, it will be hard to wipe out forced demolitions in a short time.

"You cannot stop forced demolitions unless you change that, and that is what the government should start doing," he told the Global Times.

Yu agreed that authorities should work on the enforcement of land legislation to make sure offending officials "spit out" the money they have earned from forced demolitions.

Huang Shaojie and Xinhua contributed to this story


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PD User at 2011-09-27220.255.2.*
China should punish the corrupt officials severely.Officials are there to serve the general public and not to abuse its power.No official is above the law.

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