Curtail forced demolitions

Updated: 2011-09-27 07:50

(China Daily)

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The central authorities have investigated 11 cases of forced demolition in the first six months of the year, taking disciplinary action against 57 officials and transferring the cases of 31 people suspected of criminal offences to the judiciary.

The numbers are rather small compared with what we have heard from across the country, but they are still cause for concern. They not only resulted in injuries and deaths, but they all took place after the Regulations on the Requisition of and Compensation for Premises on State-owned Land were promulgated in January to curtail forced demolition and subsequent disputes.

The regulations inspired hope that they would prevent local governments from direct involvement in evictions and forced demolitions, and put an end to violent confrontations between private citizens and demolition workers.

Judging from the 11 cases, however, the new regulation that was supposed to make arrangements for compensation before demolition was obviously ignored. So was the stipulation that prohibited the use of force during eviction and demolition. Otherwise injuries and deaths would not have occurred.

Given local governments' heavy reliance on transactions involving public land and the exorbitant profits to be had in urban commercial development projects, we have witnessed an unholy alliance form between local authorities and real estate developers.

Such a union has rightfully earned blame for driving up housing prices to unaffordable levels and providing for corruption through behind-the-scenes deals. The end result is a serious erosion of public confidence in officials, which was why the central government was anxious to find a solution.

The regulations have not been effectively observed so far. Of the 11 cases probed, six were said to be in clear violation of the present rules and the rest "legitimate forced demolitions" that "led to injuries or deaths because of inappropriate implementation on the spot". Whatever the causes were, they all involved conspicuous disregard of procedure and lives.

Over the years central leaders have acknowledged on multiple occasions that forced demolitions have resulted in public discontent with government conduct and proven to be a fuse for "mass incidents". Since the demolitions are associated with depriving people of an essential means of subsistence, namely their farms and homes, decisions must be made with maximum care for those affected, and their implementation must be governed by strict procedures.

Apologies by officials and investigations are necessary, but they are insufficient. The disciplinary actions may serve as short-term deterrence, but they will not work in the long run. There are plenty of opportunists in local governments who will wait for the trouble to blow over before they return to their old ways.

Hence, substantial pressures should be imposed, and specific and stricter procedures be incorporated to press local departments to conduct themselves properly.

(China Daily 09/27/2011 page8)