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Openness urged in property disputes

Updated: 2014-03-27 08:49
By Cao Yin ( China Daily)

Judicial specialists and lawyers suggest that governments provide residents with more transparency in land expropriation procedures and compensation to avoid tragedies such as the one in Pingdu.

Police in Pingdu, a county-level city in Shandong province, confirmed on Tuesday night via their micro blog that arson was the cause of a tent fire set amid a land dispute on Friday. The fire killed one villager and injured three others.

Seven suspects, including the two alleged ringleaders, have been detained, and the investigation is ongoing, the micro blog said.

The abettors of the arson are alleged to be a village official surnamed Du and a real estate developer's legal representative surnamed Cui, the micro blog added.

Bi Wenqiang, a Beijing-based lawyer specializing in disputes related to land expropriation, praised the Pingdu police's quick reaction to the case, but said a further investigation is still necessary.

"Generally speaking, such disputes are caused by unclear explanations before land acquisition and unfair income allocation during negotiations," Bi said.

"So whether the local government fully disclosed the expropriating procedures and respected villages' rights should be continually monitored."

Although the local government replied via its micro blog that its land expropriation was legal and compensation was provided, the villagers denied they knew that, which Bi said is "the key aggravating the conflict and deserves further investigation".

Yang Weidong, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, agreed with Bi, saying whether compensation in the case is really allocated to every village should be studied.

"Sometimes village officials collude with developers for their own interests, which also causes tragedies like Pingdu," Yang said, but adding it also reflects villagers' weak supervision of their village committee.

Wang Xixin, a law professor at Peking University, echoed Yang's sentiments, saying crackdowns over land expropriation in extreme ways must be going on, but villagers should also enhance their awareness to better supervise the village officials they elect.

"Asking villagers to exercise their supervision rights regularly is useful to cope with such land disputes, while some grassroots governments should also improve their management competence and realize they cannot solve conflicts through repression," he added.