Housing Demolition in 2010: A Report (Part 1)

The following report was passed to us by a reporter from a domestic state-owned media outlet who was told that a piece about this report could not be published. Our source sent this report to us because they were concerned that all domestic media had been ordered not to report on this material, but felt that it was important for people to see.

The work is an in-depth report on housing demolition in 2010, and even for those who are aware of the many incidents of conflict, it may contain some surprising conclusions. The full report is some 30,000 characters; our translation is the first part of the introduction of a summary of that report. Time constraints have forced me to leave off rather in the middle of things for the moment, and there are doubtless numerous typos and translation errors in the text, as this was rather rushed. My apologies, but I thought it best not to delay this story any further.

We will translate the rest of the introduction and some typical individual cases as soon as possible. In the interim, we have published the full summary, unedited (and in Chinese) here. If anyone is interested in the full, 30,000 character report, I can contact Wang Cailiang, the author of this summary, and ask about providing it.

Part 2 of our translation is here.

Translation (Part 1)


Because of the implementation of the Property Rights Law three years ago, 2010 was China’s third year in the “post-demolition era.” On August 24th, 2007, then-Construction Department head Wang Guangdao represented the State Council in reporting to the People’s Congress his recommendation that the Urban Real Estate Management Law be revised because to resolve conflicts between the Property Rights Law and the Demolition of Property Regulations. He requested that the Urban Real Estate Management Law be revised and that the State Council be authorized to formulate the State-owned Land Taxation and Demolition Compensation Management Measures. This was the first time that China’s highest demolition management official had publicly admitted that the Demolition Regulations and Property Rights Law were conflicting, and that the Demolition Regulations violated public law. It also made it clear that from that date, all further demolitions (enacted under the Demolition Regulations) were illegal, and that we were now in the “post-demolition age”.

Even so, as we welcome the year 2011, we are still awaiting the new system [that will govern demolitions]. Looking back on the demolitions of 2010, we’ve tried hard, but it appears as though we’re still in a dire predicament. For the sake of 2011, and for the future of the Chinese people, we’re summarizing the demolitions of 2010 in the form of a yearly report.

Special Points

In our analysis of 2010’s demolition events and comparison with previous years’ data, we’ve noticed four special points:

The first is that all people with a conscience admit that nowadays, the harming of the lawful rights of property owners via demolition runs counter to the goal of establishing a harmonious society because demolition is pushed though via public authority but [decisions about whether or not to demolish something] are not made based on whether or not that demolition is for the public good. 2010 was a year in which everyone was waiting and anxiously expecting reform in the demolition system.

The second is that those opening businesses are at the forefront of the group of people who demolishes property. This year there was a change in the pattern of relations between the demolisher and the people whose homes were demolished; because in many places the government has become the demolishing body, relations between the people and the government have become tenser by the minute. Under the banner of their authority to take over land, many local governments have unscrupulously become players [in the demolition game] and numerous demolition “command headquarters” have sprung up as a result. Posters announcing demolition that were placed there by the government are visible all over the country, and public officials are ignoring their jobs and becoming demolition workers. The atmosphere has for some time been even worse than that that surrounded the 2004 Jiahe, Hunan incident. Conflicts between the people who have suffered demolition and local governments or the official body that governs demolition have been constantly increasing.

The third is that the vast majority of locations have not stopped demolitions in response to the existence of the Constitution, the Property Rights Law, etc., and in fact have increased the number of demolitions. From the city to the countryside, all over the nation, the alarms are being raised and the fluttering flags read “Transform the Old City”, “Transform the Village.” Transform has become the new word for “pillage”. Among these cases, there are those with that are objectively requirements for development, and some really are for the public good and are enacted in accordance with the law, but more are counterfeit and fake “public interest” programs. […]

The fourth is that in the work of reconciling [compensation] after demolition, the situation varies widely from location to location. The proportion of cases that are resolved according to the law is decreasing. Whether it’s via administrative redress or lawsuit, the problem of it being difficult to even file a case is becoming more and more serious in places like Beijing and Shanghai. From the cases of [list of numerous violent protest incidents in response to demolition, including self-immolation and violent conflict with demolition teams], it’s clear that in most cases the local government’s inaction or wanton misdeeds have intensified the disagreements. […]

What we must emphasize is that the intensification of these conflicts has already led to some cases of “stability preservation” [workers] acting like organized criminals, and people defending their own rights acting in scary ways.

[Omitted: Section 2, Legal Regulations]

In 2010, the intensification of conflicts about demolition came about mostly because the fundamental issues that led to those conflicts have not seen any positive developments.

[…] The problem that lies behind land finance is that increasingly, local governments cannot keep up with rising expenditures using only taxation, so more and more rely on profits from land [sales]. This has become a major conflict in modern society and a huge impediment to the process of implementing a harmonious society.

The total income from all land sales nationwide in 2009 was 1,423,970,000,000 RMB, up 43.2% from 2008. This amounts to about 46% of the total national income for local financial administrations during the same period.
But in 2009, the total spent on land acquisition was 1,232,710,000,000 RMB, up 28.9% from 2008. 498,576,000,000 RMB was spent on land takeovers and demolition compensation, or 40.4% of the total expenditures. 10.7% of total expenditures were spent on land development, 27% on city construction, 3.5% on rural infrastructure, 1.6% to subsidize farmers whose land was seized by the government, 0.7% on professional land sales, 1.5% on low income housing. Land arrangement and basic rural construction got 3.9%, development of farming land 0.9%, disaster relief/reconstruction and bankruptcy bailout 9.7%.

In 2010, land sales deals brought in over 2,700,000,000,000 RMB, an increase of 70.4%, and even more worrying, local finance has taken another step further in relying on land sales profits [to function]; the four major cities all relied on land sales for at least 50% of their funding this year, before this, land sales income was only 25% of Beijing’s budget. According to statistics, in China’s ten largest cities, income from land sales hit 875,241,000,000 RMB, an increase of over 54% from 2009.

Because of this, local governments everywhere have pushed through “transform the city” and “transform the village” programs with overwhelming force, for the purposes of tearing down housing and selling the land, which makes the demolition of housing even more prevalent. This movement to increase the income of land finance administrations is currently apparently unconstrained by any restrictions or appropriate guidance. This has become the main new source of the intensification of demolition conflicts, we are very confident in this appraisal.

Continue to Part 2 of our translation

0 thoughts on “Housing Demolition in 2010: A Report (Part 1)”

  1. @ Interested: Agreed. But I don’t have permission to distribute the full report, just the summary of the report that we’re translating here (the full text of which we have already posted).


  2. The same term “transform” (gai3zào) was previously used as “remold” in the PRC Maoist term for taming intellectuals and citizens in general, “thought remolding” (often mistranslated as “thought reform”).


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