China’s Premier Supports Farmers’ Land Rights

Posted December 27th, 2011 at 12:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is warning government officials they must protect the land rights of farmers and give those farmers a much larger share of the profits when their land is taken over for development.

Mr. Wen's defense of farmers came at a conference in Beijing Tuesday, less than a week after authorities in southern Guangdong province gave in to villagers protesting what they said were illegal land seizures.

Mr. Wen said farmers' right to the use of their land is protected by law and cannot be taken from them. He said when farmland is developed for other uses, officials must dramatically increase the share of the benefits that goes to the farmers.

The premier stressed that even a small decrease in farm production could have negative effects on China's economy at a time when the country is struggling with high inflation and slowing growth.

Attention was called to the land rights issue by several weeks of protests in Wukan village, where farmers claimed they received little or no compensation when their land was seized for development.

The villagers barricaded roads into the village after several community leaders were arrested and one died in police custody. The stand-off ended only when authorities acknowledged that the villagers' demands were reasonable and agreed to release the village leaders.

China has been unsettled in recent months by a series of localized protests over such issues as corruption, land seizures and pollution-spewing factories. In many cases, authorities have given in to the protesters, whose causes were widely publicized through social media.