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Farmers halt the bulldozers
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-22 06:49

Beleaguered farmers faced with the loss of their land to urban construction have been handed a life line from a Beijing court, the Beijing Morning Post reported Tuesday.

The Beijing No 1 Intermediate People's Court has overturned in a first hearing the ruling by the Ministry of Land and Resources which had ruled the 150 farmers led by a 68-year-old woman from East China's Jiangsu Province had no grounds to sue their villagers' committee for selling their land.

The farmers, from Hongjiao Village, Wuxi, only discovered local government leaders had requisite 12 hectres for real estate development in a public bulletin posted on street information boards.

The farmers sent a letter of protest to the Ministry of Land and Resources in the capital which sanctions requisitions but were told they had failed to appeal in the 60 days allowed.

The farmers argued in their indictment they saw the ministry's approval for the land requisition on May 21 last year at the Wuxi Land and Resources Bureau.

They then mailed an application for administrative reconsideration within the time limit in July last year, they argued.

Led by Hu Xuemei, the farmers then filed a lawsuit against the ministry to the Beijing court late last year.

The court ruled last Friday the farmers' appeal was lodged within the time limit and the ministry should reconsider its approval of the land requisition.

"The ministry will accept the farmers' application in light of the court judgment," said Long Bing, an official from the ministry.

The country's rapid urbanization has seen millions of hectres of land swallowed up by developers, affecting millions often throwing farmers without land.

About 166,000 to 200,000 hectares of land are needed for urban construction every year, official statistics show. That means about 2.5-3 million farmers lose their land each year though they get needed compensations.

Legal experts have long called on the government to promote rural reforms and protect farmers' rights and interests.

"Improper land requisition is causing serious social problems. Revisions should be made to existing laws and regulations on land use to protect farmers' rights during the urbanization process," said Professor Ren Dapeng from China Agricultural University.

He added: "To protect farmers' rights, the principles of equality and fairness should be honoured in the requisition system," Ren said.

(China Daily 03/22/2005 page2)

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