China Pulls Article on Controversial Property Rights Bill


2007-03-14
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A Beijing newspaper vendor. Photo: AFP

The Chinese authorities, divided over private property rights, have effectively pulled a top magazine article covering implications of a draft Property Law to be tabled at the annual parliamentary session in Beijing.

The article, in the popular business magazine Finance , was to have been the cover story on this week’s edition of the publication, but editor Yang Daming said it couldn't go to press.

As I'm sure you know, the issue of the property rights law is quite a big one. Given the circumstances of our news industry at the moment, that's what they wanted us to do.

Finance

“The article was in the process of being approved, but that approval still hadn’t been completed by the time we reached the deadline, so we made some changes,” Yang told RFA’s Cantonese service.

“As I’m sure you know, the issue of the property rights law is quite a big one. Given the circumstances of our news industry at the moment, that’s what they wanted us to do,” he told reporter Grace Kei Lai-see.

Partially replaced pages

Regular Finance reader Zan Aizong said: “When I got to the newsstands I saw that saw that the holes made by the staples were larger, which makes me think that they didn’t reprint the whole thing...Rather, they just replaced a section of it.”

Asked which department refused to give the final go-ahead for the story, Yang said: “It’s very hard for me to tell you. Let’s just say it’s orders from higher up.”

“I do think it’s a shame from the readers’ point of view that they didn’t get to see this article,” he added.

China’s media is usually regulated by the draconian Communist Party Central Propaganda Department, which has faced increasing criticism from liberal academics who say press freedom is essential to China’s healthy economic development.

The draft Property Law had been slated for approval by China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), in its final session Friday.

It was delayed at the last minute following suggestions and objections from 47 central government departments, 16 large companies, 22 academic institutes, and 11,500 members of the public, according to NPC standing committee chairman Wu Bangguo.

Parliament reintroduces bill

“The draft Property Law is currently being revised in accordance with the opinions and suggestions of all sides,” he told the NPC. “It will be resubmitted for review when conditions are mature.”

But the official Xinhua news agency said Monday lawmakers had voted to reintroduce the bill, which grants equal protection to state and private property, following deliberations by nearly 3,000 lawmakers.

The revisions range from relations between this law and the Guarantee Law to protection of the legitimate rights of members of a collective from being infringed upon by a decision made in the name of the collective or its leaders, Xinhua said.

This might have profound implications for the thousands of land grab disputes that arise annually across China as local officials sign away rural land from under farming communities for lucrative property deals, stoking civil unrest.

Moreover, “the draft property law strengthens the protection of state-owned property, stipulating that illegal possession, looting, illegal sharing, withholding or destruction of state property is prohibited, to further prevent fraudulent acquisitions and mergers of state property,” the agency reported.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Grace Kei Lai-see. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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