China mulls having courts rule on disputed forced demolitions

22:08, December 14, 2010      

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China might remove the government's administrative power to force residents to relocate and instead rely on courts to make decisions after taking into account the concerns of residents and developers.

The revision was written into the draft regulations on expropriation of houses on state-owned land and relevant compensation, which were released to experts for discussion in November, said Shen Kui from Peking University's Law School during an interview with Xinhua Monday.

But the revision has yet to be approved by the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council (LAOSC), Shen said. The office issued the first draft regulations in January for public submissions.

The draft was expected to replace the controversial Regulations on Administration of the Housing Demolition and Relocation in Cities that took effect in 2001. According to the regulations, local governments can order the demolition of people's homes if they do not agree to vacate their residence by a set date.

In 2007, the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliament, adopted the Property Rights Law, granting equal protection to public and private properties.

Since then, according to the Amendment to the Law on the Administration of Urban Real Estate - which stresses the legal rights of property holders in expropriation procedures - the LAOSC has been entitled to revise the demolition regulations.

On Dec. 7, 2009, five professors from Peking University including Shen claimed in an open letter to the NPC that the demolition regulations are unconstitutional and violate the Property Rights Law.

The LAOSC invited the professors to take part in the discussions on the draft regulations.

The first draft had put restrictions on the government's administrative power in demolition procedures by spelling out the conditions, due process and compensation to be paid for expropriating houses for public use.

The latest draft made it clear the government should not execute its expropriation decisions by force without court approval, Shen said.

Forced demolition of houses is a hot topic in China, where urban development has made relocation of households a common phenomenon. They have led to confrontations and even violent incidents resulting in death and injury.

On Sept. 10, three residents set themselves on fire in a protest against local government pressuring them to sell their home so it could be demolished to make way for the construction of a bus station in Yihuang County, southeast Jiangxi Province.

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