Demolition rules seek public input

08:33, December 16, 2010      

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Local governments will not be allowed to use their administrative rights to forcibly demolish citizens' properties, and forced home demolitions must go through the courts, according to draft proposals released on Wednesday to gauge public opinion.

The proposals, in an updated draft revision to the urban home demolition regulations, were made available for public response until Dec 30. They also prohibit any organization or individual from using violence, threats or other illegal acts, such as cutting off water, electricity and transport access, to force relocations.

The long-awaited new draft, which experts said enhances legal procedures, replaces the first draft, which resulted in 65,601 responses from Jan 29 to March 3.

"It's the first time for the State Council Legislative Affairs Office to publish a second draft of regulations for a second round of soliciting public opinion," Peking University law professor Shen Kui told China Daily.

"It shows the central government's caution in making such a new rule and its determination to curb the violation of people's rights amid a recent string of violent relocation cases."

Shen is one of the five Peking University professors who suggested that the existing urban housing demolition regulations be revised, after Sichuan province native Tang Fuzhen died following self-immolation in protest against the demolition of her home last year.

The existing regulations stipulate that local governments can resort to administrative or judicial means to carry out demolitions. However, government figures show administrative organs forcibly conducted only 0.2 percent of all demolitions.

"Even though very few detrimental incidents have happened during forced demolitions, effective measures must be taken to avoid such incidents from reoccurring," the State Council Legislative Affairs Office said in a public letter on its website alongside the new draft regulations.

"The revision may help restrict or standardize local governments' activities concerning land requisition and compensation," and should help ease disputes over "property requisition and compensation", the letter said.

The country is at a very critical period of industrialization and urbanization, the office said, and the theme of the revision is to balance public and private interests.

The revision also updates articles concerning two key issues in land requisition and home demolition: compensation and how to define projects of public interest.

The issue of compensation was the topic the public responded to most during the first round of solicitation, with 13,332 responses, according to the office.

The second revision makes it clear that compensation must not be lower than the market price and evaluation of the property must be done by qualified rating institutions and can be appealed.

Public interest projects also garnered a large feedback with 9,161 responses between January and March. These responses were concerned about the definition of public interest projects. If a property falls under this category it could result in forced demolition.

According to the second revision, the following projects are considered public interest: Government projects involving energy, transport, education, resources and environment protection, disaster relief, social welfare, public service, as well as office building for government agencies.

A number of recent high-profile incidents of forced relocations triggered widespread publicity and growing calls for a revision to the existing regulations, which allow forced relocation before any legal procedures or payment of compensation.

However, little progress had been reported after the first draft revision was made public in January and many scholars had expressed concern that resistance from local governments, whose finances rely heavily on real estate development, impeded the reform process.

Wang Weiguo, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said the reason that the revision takes so long is that it's difficult to balance the interests of the community and individuals.

Wang said he welcomes the new draft making forced relocation only possible after judicial procedure. "Even if it's really a public interest project, necessary judicial procedures should be ahead of forced relocation," he said.

By Wang Huazhong and Wang Jingqiong, China Daily
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