Golf courses an issue as land disputes rise

BEIJING – Group petition cases provoked by land acquisition and relocation increased substantially in the first half of the year, the country’s top land watchdog has revealed.

The Ministry of Land and Resources received visits from 9,809 people in 2,450 cases in the first six months of 2011, according to a statement released by the ministry on Friday. Total visits increased by 9 percent, compared with the same period last year. The number of visitors increased by 37 percent.

Notably, 6,372 people paid 693 group visits to the central government department, accounting for 65 percent of all visitors and 28.3 percent of the total visits.

Compared with the same period last year, the group visits and group petitioners saw increases of 57.5 percent and 62.8 percent respectively.

As well, the ministry’s official hotline received 10,058 calls, a 9 percent rise year-on-year. The ministry also received 4,776 letters of report, 11 percent fewer compared to the same period last year.

Nationwide, the land department’s official hotlines at all levels of government had received 38,469 calls reporting illegal cases concerning land and resources in the first six months, a 13 percent rise.

More than half of all reports – calls, letters and visits – were about land acquisition and relocation cases, official data showed.

“In the past 10 years, that has been an important reason for people who were not satisfied with compensation to appeal to higher authorities for help,” Yan Jinming, professor of land management at Renmin University of China, told China Daily.

“Authorities should put the interests of the people whose land is to be expropriated as a priority and guarantee their living standards will not be lowered,” Professor Yan said.

The ministry also said that the first half-year saw a large increase in petitions from residents in cities, enterprises and public institutions, concerning illegal demolitions and compensation on State-owned land.

The ministry received 34 reports of illegal projects for new golf courses in the first six months, an increase of 31 percent year-on-year.

New golf courses were built or under construction in 17 provinces, expanding from the coastal areas in the past year.

“Thorough research on golf courses, both existing and under construction, should be done, with harsh punishment, to curb those programs occupying more farmland,” Professor Yan said. “The impact of each golf course on the environment needs to be included in this research.”

The construction of golf courses was one of the main illegal uses of the land, while others included the building of roads, railways and water irrigation facilities.

On July 20, the State Council ordered checks on all golf courses to prevent illegal land use and seizures and to ensure no loss of farmland in China.

China Daily

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