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Liang Huixing :Demolition regulation ‘contradicts the law’
By Wang Jingqiong (China Daily)

The urban housing demolition regulation that has been under fire ever since a woman committed suicide in a desperate bid to stop the destruction of her home should have been taken off the books more than two years ago, according to a leading legislator.

Liang Huixing, a member of the Law Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) - the country's top legislature - said yesterday the tragedy in Southwest China's Sichuan province in which the woman set fire to herself should not have happened because the urban housing demolition regulation the demolition crews were acting under had long since expired.

"As soon as the Property Law took effect in 2007, the (Housing Demolition and Relocation Management) regulation should have lost its efficacy," said Liang.

"All forced home demolitions in the past two years were actually illegal," he insisted.

However, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, the organ that issued the existing regulation, yesterday insisted that the rule, which allows local governments to evict people from their homes and demolish them if the land is needed for other projects, was still in effect.

In China, the NPC drafts laws while the State Council Legislative Affairs Office makes administrative regulations.

Laws have more legal weight than regulations.

The escalating dispute followed an open letter from five professors at Peking University, who wrote to the NPC on Monday.

The scholars suggested the legislature should get the State Council Legislative Affairs Office to revise or abolish the regulation.

They said it was a breach of the country's Constitution and Property Law.

According to the nation's Constitution and Property Law, a citizen's private property is inviolable - governments should only be able to confiscate someone's home for public welfare construction - and compensation must be paid before relocation.

But in the housing management regulation, the rights of property owners are not specified.

The regulation also stipulates that residents must move out once the government issues a relocation permit, with a maximum period of a year and a half allowed for residents to relocate and negotiate compensation.

But what happens in most cases, experts said, is local governments give developers permission to begin work and leave the companies to negotiate with residents. If residents refuse to move, they are usually forced out.

The open letter has drawn attention nationwide, especially in the light of the death of Tang Fuzhen, the woman who set herself on fire during her dispute with authorities in Chendu, capital of Sichuan province.

The government there said the Housing Demolition and Relocation Management Regulation gave them the right to seize Tang's home.

Shen Kui, one of the five scholars who wrote the open letter, told China Daily yesterday that neither the NPC nor the State Council had offered a response.

Many people across China have called for answers, going as far as leaving comments on the official website of the State Council Legislative Affairs Office.

The office posted a response online yesterday, saying: "The regulation issued in 2001 is effective."

But Liang disagreed.

"It's like the relationship between a father and a son," he said. "Property Law is the father of the regulation because it is higher. Of course, the father should decide what the son is like."

Liang said he believed the reason the regulation was still in use was because many local governments simply ignore laws.

Shen said a new rule laying out how the governments can seize housing is long overdue.

But he said making such changes would not be easy because local governments will resist them.

"Many local governments get almost half of their revenue from land trading," he said. "To cut that profit source could be very hard."

(China Daily 12/11/2009 page1