Officials punished for forced demolition

Updated: 2011-09-26 07:33

By An Baijie (China Daily)

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Issue 'closely related' to social stability as authorities press for due process

BEIJING - Fifty-seven officials, including one at vice-provincial level, were punished by the government for malpractice that led to death or injury in 11 cases of forced demolition this year, authorities said in a statement on Sunday.

Punishment included serious warnings, suspension from positions and expulsion from the Party.

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Judicial authorities will investigate 31 others for criminal offences.

Land acquisition and demolition are closely linked to social stability, said the statement, jointly issued by the Ministry of Supervision, the Ministry of Land and Resources, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and the State Council Office for Rectifying Malpractice.

The 11 cases occurred after the State Council issued a regulation in January on the expropriation of, and compensation for, houses on State-owned land. The regulation stipulated that due process, including public hearings and the offer of fair compensation, must take place before expropriation and demolition.

One of the cases concerned the death of Liu Shuxiang, 48, who was buried for nearly two days in the debris of her building which was destroyed by a forced demolition squad in Chaoyang district, Changchun, Jilin province, on March 26.

After being buried by the rubble, Liu called the police on her mobile phone four times in the first hour. Her relatives also called the mayor's office. However, police did not arrive until 50 minutes after the demolition. Police officers refused to search the rubble as the demolition squad told them "there was no one in the building", according to a report by China News Service.

More than 50 people blocked the road and demanded that the government "punish the murderer" on the morning of March 27. The government sent more than 200 police to the scene. The public security authorities only retrieved Liu's body on the afternoon of March 28.

The mayor of Changchun, Cui Jie, an official at vice-provincial level, was required by the Ministry of Supervision to apologize to residents for mishandling the case, and the head of the city's Chaoyang district was sacked, according to a Sept 9 report in the Legal Daily.

The punishment toward the relevant officials reflected the central government's determination to stop forced demolition, Jiang Ming'an, an administrative law professor at Peking University, said.

"Punishing them sets an example to other officials not to commit similar offences," Jiang said.

Local governments, especially at the grassroots level, depend on revenue from land sales. As a result, many officials turn a blind eye at forced demolition and actually help developers seize land from residents, Jiang said.

"To prevent violent demolition, the current financial system should be reformed", so that local governments do not rely so much on revenue from land sales, Jiang said.