Experts speak highly of court's handling of land acquisition suit

Updated: 2014-06-04 06:49

By Wen Xinzheng in Changsha and Hou Liqiang in Beijing (China Daily)

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Legal professionals have hailed a case in Hunan province in which several farmers are suing local authorities for higher compensation for acquired land as progress in the public's awareness of legal issues.

The lawsuit five farmers filed late last year against the mayor and government of Linxiang was heard on May 22. The court has not yet reached a verdict.

Experts have applauded the farmers' decision to take legal action and the court's acceptance of the case, saying both help to improve transparency, encourage due process in the courts over mass disturbances and lessen public distrust of the government over the way it handles similar cases.

In early 2013, some farmland belonging to Liu Qijun and other villagers was set for requisition for the construction of a highway. Based on the compensation plan by local authorities, Liu would get about 280,500 yuan ($44,850) per hectare for the farmland.

But Liu said he found a document by the provincial government stipulating that he could get 929,280 yuan per hectare. Together with four other villagers, he petitioned unsuccessfully to the Ministry of Land and Resources for the higher compensation.

In December, the farmers filed a lawsuit against the Linxiang mayor and government with the Yueyang Intermediate People's Court, which handed the case to the Junshan District Court.

Liu, 58, told China Daily that the mayor, Gong Weiguo, did not attend the three-hour hearing. Gong had appointed a lawyer and an official of the local land and resource bureau as his representatives.

"I have a big chance of winning the case, as I have a sound legal foundation for it," Liu said.

Gong told China Daily that he was not surprised that the court accepted the case.

"It's a legal society and we all live under the same regulations. If we can't reach an agreement over a dispute, we can turn to the law," Gong said. "The acceptance of the case by the court is a good thing."

Gong said the compensation standard announced by the local government is based on the law and he believes the court will give a just verdict.

Liu Honghui, a property lawyer from Beijing-based Yingke Law Firm, said it is a breakthrough for both the farmers to sue the mayor and for the court to accept the case.

Instead of filing a lawsuit, many people have resorted to petitions or protests when they have disputes with authorities over land compensation. But the latest case reflects an "awakening of the public's legal consciousness", the lawyer said.

"Sometimes the public misunderstands the government. The courts can help lessen such public distrust of authorities."

Gu Xiaorong, vice-president of the Shanghai Law Society, said, "It's more dependable to turn to the court."

But that does not mean that more people should turn to the court to resolve land dispute issues, he said. "Judicial authorities should try to first mediate in a public and transparent way and they should hear the case after that fails."

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(China Daily 06/04/2014 page4)