16 Jan 2012

Premier critical of land seizures

11:13 am on 16 January 2012

Premier Wen Jiabao of China has called for farmers' land rights to be protected.

In a summary of an essay for Qiushi magazine published by the Xinhua news agency on Sunday, he criticised a widespread policy of moving villagers into apartment blocks, so their land can be merged into larger blocs or developed.

''Rural residents enjoy the legal rights of land contracts, land use and collective income distribution'', he wrote, whether they stayed in the countryside or migrated to cities for work.

"No one is empowered to take away such rights," the summary said.

Ten days of protests over confiscated farmland and the death of a protest organiser in Wukan in Guangdong province in December drew widespread attention.

State-backed land grabs are a cause of deep tension across China.

Local governments rely on land sales to raise funds and farmers have little legal protection over their holdings. Critics say the land can still be easily sold by corrupt officials.