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Policy aims to reduce forced relocations

By Guo Kai (Global Times)

11:10, February 03, 2013

A policy document released on Thursday has stressed that the top leadership will fully respect the views of rural residents who do not wish to live in multi-story buildings as a result of the urbanization process and urged local governments not to forcibly relocate rural residents, a senior official said Friday.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council Thursday jointly released the annual "No.1 central committee document" for this year, in which local authorities are discouraged from destroying villages outside areas zoned for urban development to make way for large-scale residential communities.

Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the leading group on rural affairs under the CPC Central Committee, explained Friday that the agricultural sector and farmers' willingness are two decisive reasons.

"Farmers mainly live off the agricultural sector. The employment of farmers is not solved by relocating and merging villages as some find it is difficult to work their fields afterward," Chen said.

In rural areas with higher population densities, young people still choose urban areas for work, leaving only the elderly, women and children behind, Chen said.

"Farmers in the eastern parts of the country are more inclined to protest against the merging of their villages, as many of them have living conditions on par with urban residents," Zhang Yi, a population expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times Friday.

"The merging from urbanization harms their interests," Zhang said. "This contradicts the 'No.1 document,' which is aimed at protecting their interests."

"Farmers have livestock and land plots to work on. It is really inconvenient to live in those high-rise buildings," Li Xichao, a farmer from Zhucheng, East China's Shandong Province, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Experts believe that the new document will serve to cool the overheated urbanization process.

"These mergers should not be carried out indiscriminately in any place, and they are not appropriate for those who farm as a profession," Dang Guoying, a researcher with the Rural Development Institute under the CASS, told the Global Times, adding that leaving farmers to their land rather than pushing them to migrate would reduce social conflict.

The document also stipulates that the rights to use the land left behind could be transferred to other people as around 260 million rural young people have relocated to urban areas.

Chen said in the next five years, local authorities should register and issue certificates to farmers based on the land assigned to them in their contracts.

"Farmers' contributions cannot be neglected during the modernization of the country's agricultural sector. It's good to try to solve possible disputes by registering their land and issuing them certificates," Zhang said.

Enterprises are encouraged to invest in rural production. However, they are not allowed to compete with farmers for the use of farmland, which is reserved for farmers engaged in agriculture.

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