Beijing (AFP) Dec 16, 2010
Land disputes are the most volatile social problem in rural China as forced official property seizures trigger growing unrest, state media reported Thursday, citing a top think tank.
The problem of land seizures has stirred an uproar in recent years as economic stimulus measures and an urban development push have fuelled a property boom and a resulting rash of mass evictions in the rush to cash in.
In its 2011 "Blue Book of China's Society", the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) said that 73 percent of petitions and complaints filed by farmers are related to land, the China Daily reported.
Problems with low compensation and unsatisfactory resettlement are the main point of discontent, the report cited the think tank as saying.
Fights over land accounted for 65 percent of rural "mass conflicts", which the government fears threaten to undermine the country's stability and economic development, the report said.
Some local authorities have apparently been taking advantage of a central government order to set aside 120 million hectares (297 million acres) of arable land to help ensure food security by grabbing land occupied by rural houses, the report said.
Tens of thousands of farmers, whose families have lived in farmhouses for generations, are being relocated to multistorey buildings so that local governments can sell the land to developers for profit, the report said.
Since 1990, authorities have seized more than 6.7 million hectares of land from farmers, the Beijing News quoted CASS researcher Yu Jianrong as saying last month.
The disparity between the combined compensation paid to residents and the land's market value amounted to about two trillion yuan (294 billion dollars), Yu said.
China has moved to quell possible unrest by proposing new rules on seizing land for development -- including getting permission from the vast majority of residents before mass evictions.
In a case that shocked the nation, Tang Fuzhen, 47, set herself on fire in November 2009 in southwestern Sichuan province over the planned demolition of her husband's garment-processing business. She died 16 days later.
Violent resistance has been reported in numerous other cases as ordinary people take matters into their own hands.
earlier related report
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said he was "cautiously optimistic" about progress on other fronts, including protecting US intellectual property and opening Chinese government procurement to greater competition.
"But it's disappointing that with beef, all we have is an agreement to start talking again in the new year," said Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade issues.
Top officials from the world's two largest economies met for two days in Washington to try to iron out persistent tensions -- including over the value of China's currency, which the United States says is artificially low.
President Barack Obama's administration, which has been hit hard by economic worries, offered an upbeat take on the talks and highlighted China's willingness to restart talks on resuming US beef imports.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack pointed to "progress" over US beef, which was banned by China among other countries in 2003 over concerns about mad-cow disease.
"Technical talks will resume as soon as possible with the goal of reopening China's market in early 2011," Vilsack said.
Republican Senator Mike Johanns, who has called on China, Japan, and South Korea to allow US beef freer access to their markets, said it was time for China "to begin living up to its WTO (World Trade Organization) obligations."
"Sending another technical team to China certainly won't hurt, but until Chinese ports actually start accepting shipments of US beef, this agreement will give cattlemen little solace," he said.
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