The following is a continuation of our translation of the summary of a report about housing demolition in China in 2010 that was compiled by a team of lawyers and passed to us by an anonymous source in the Chinese media. Our source was told that they were not allowed to report on this topic.
Our translation picks off in the middle of things, so if you haven’t already, please read Part 1 first.
We remind you also, that for Chinese readers, we have made the entire summary of the report available in its original form here, completely unedited.
Also, I want to stress again that this is a rough and rushed translation that inevitably contains errors. Also, where the names of laws and policies are concerned, I’m just translating directly; the names used herein may not be the proper terms for these laws. Please consult the original text for clarification.
Translation (Part 2)
[Picking up where we left off in the “Reasons” section, where the author is listing the causes of the spike in home demolitions that occurred in 2010. The first reason was that land sales make up a huge and growing portion of local government budgets, and the easiest way to get land to sell is to evict tenants, demolish the building, and sell the land.]
2. Control of Responsibility for Problems Has Not Materialized.
Although many towns and counties have published regulations regarding assigning responsibility when problems arise, they are mostly aimed at demolitions that do not begin as scheduled or at government cadres investigating and interfering with the demolition process. In practice, it’s obvious that more people have been investigated because a demolition hasn’t gone smoothly than have been investigated because they might be responsible for a death related to a demolition case ((I am not sure about this translation.)). A Southern Weekend reporter investigating eight cases over the past three years that resulted in self-immolation or someone being buried alive discovered that not a single person had been investigated or punished as a result of the deaths. In the Donghai and Yancheng cases in Jiangsu, the Haidian case in Beijing, the Jiaozhou case in Shandong, the Quanzhou case in Fujian, and the Dongning case in Heilongjiang, all cases of self-immolation, and in the Wuhan, Hubei case where the moving family was buried alive by a bulldozer, not a single local official was deemed responsible. Even in the Tang Fuzhen incident, where an official was suspended and expressed little remorse for what happened, he was later reinstated and it was announced publicly that “he did not feel apologetic towards Tang Fuzhen and that under the law no apology was needed.” It was further announced that “Tang Fuzhen was ignorant of the law” and had a terrible influence on society.
3. Policy Formulations and Legal Regulations are Unclear
2000’s Legislation Regulations has not been properly enforced. Some places have acted beyond the power they are granted by legislation, seizing and demolishing housing on their own. Not only do the Property Rights Law and the Circular on Economic Acceleration conflict, and limit the rights of those looking to file suit [about wrongful demolition]. For example, the Wuxi, Jiangsu city government has authorized its demolition management office to permit demolitions on all collectively-owned land. When the masses sought redress with the provincial government, their case was ignored. This allowed the government to avoid having to open official organs to manage construction and land use policies.
Another example is the Putian, Fujian case where the district government announced that compensation for demolished homes was not to exceed 600 RMB per square meter ((For all but the humblest houses, there is no way this could be market value)), completely ignoring the market value of the houses being destroyed and whether or not those who lost houses would be able to buy new ones.
The Way Forward
We feel that to address the intensification of conflicts that has arisen from housing demolitions in 2010, not only must the “City Housing Demolition Management Regulations” be revised into the “State-owned Land Seizure and Compensation Regulations”, but that the entire system of housing demolitions must be reformed.
At present, we recommend quickly doing the following four things:
First, abolish the City Housing Demolition Management Regulations and use the State-owned Land Seizure and Compensation Regulations as a start, and work out a set of Real Estate Seizure Regulations that are consistent with the constitution.
With the encouragement of several scholars, we have drafted a proposed “Real Estate Seizure Regulations” manuscript, and have already submitted it to the People’s Congress and the State Council via the Chinese Legal Association. We hope that this will receive an appropriate level of attention, so that land seizures in China have proper legal grounding.
2. Speed up reform of the political system, and push forward democratic politics. If we can truly create a system in which the people have the right to speak on and supervise policies, legal regulations, and the selection of government officials, the power of cadres will be restricted and this will reduce corruption and oppression, and thus reduce the instances in which demolition interferes with the lives of the people. Moreover, law enforcement must embrace scientific development, enforce the laws for the sake of the people, and absolutely not allow so-called “government activity” to harm the public good. Legally protecting the people’s legitimate legal rights will stem the expansion of violent demolition incidents.
3. In planning scientific development, we must grasp reality and completely abolish the theory behind “land financing” and “governments building cities” [i.e., governments that finance their budgets by selling land seized from the people], and bring high management costs back down to earth. Methods: one is to reduce the funding required for management through systemic reforms. Another is to reform taxation systems so that the pressure on basic government units to get funding is reduced (since that pressure often results in governments turning to land seizure, demolition, and land sales), and make government officials be clean (i.e. cut down on corruption). ((These suggestions are overly simplistic, but remember this is just the introduction to the summary of their real report.))
4. We must fix the system of responsibility. Most of the cases where intense conflicts about housing demolition have turned bloody aren’t truly cases of friend vs. enemy, but most of them were unresolvable because law enforcement refused to help the people, and no one felt it was their responsibility to resolve the situation. And the situation in some places, where those responsible for cases where deaths occurred were not punished and were even promoted to more important positions, must be changed.
A Short Review
Because it’s rather long, here are what I think are the important take-away points from this report:
- Laws about land seizure, housing demolition and compensation are unclear and conflicting, so everyone ignores them.
- Law enforcement is not particularly inclined to hold anyone responsible when things go wrong (nor do the laws make it clear who is legally responsible in the first place), and local government has not been responsive in addressing grievances.
- Local government budgets are rising, and money made from land sales has become a huge percentage of the total budget of many local and city governments. This adds pressure each year to acquire and sell more land, whatever the means.
- The team of lawyers recommendations includes, interestingly enough, the swift transition to a more democratic political system.