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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Top court rules on home demolition rights

By Zhao Yinan  (China Daily)

08:38, April 10, 2012

Courts can turn down government requests to demolish housing, if the compensation for residents is deemed unfair, the Supreme People's Court ruled on Monday.

The latest judicial interpretation by the country's top court, effective from Tuesday, supplements the existing regulation on urban home demolition, which was revised last year.

The interpretation specifies seven circumstances under which courts should reject government requests for forced relocation, including where the proposed compensation "violates the principle of fairness", where land acquisition has "severely violated the procedures provided by law", and where the basic living essentials of property owners are not ensured.

After requests have been approved by court, the interpretation said demolitions should "normally be carried out by administrative bodies", to distinguish judicial approval from law enforcement, according to a statement released by the court on Monday.

"Whether governments or courts are responsible for implementing forced demolition is exactly the issue being left out in current stipulations, and needs an urgent answer," said Wang Xixin, a law professor at Peking University.

The State Council's regulation on urban demolition and compensation, revised in January 2011, forbids local governments from executing their administrative right to demolish houses without residents' consent, unless approved by a court.

However, the ruling fails to specify which party is responsible for carrying out demolition after judicial approval.

Wang said that the latest interpretation "adds another layer of protection" for owners and residents of homes earmarked for demolition, as it put the decision in the court's hands.

"If you let government play the role of both decision-maker and executive body at the same time, misjudgment and demolitions that turn violent can hardly be avoided," he said.

The interpretation also requires courts to give a ruling within 30 days of receiving a government's request to demolish property, and to notify the government within five days once the decision is made.

Rapid urbanization and rising demand for land has given way to more disputes, and who is responsible for carrying out demolition can be a thorny issue, said Ying Songnian, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

"Surely no one is happy to take on that job," he said.

Existing laws, including the Administrative Coercion Law, the country's principal legislation regarding home demolition, have had little effect and "the interests involved are hard to balance", Ying said.

The judicial interpretation clarifying that administrative bodies were responsible for demolitions was a good thing, he said, as "it makes a judicial remedy possible" for property owners if the demolition is wrongly carried out.

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