Chinese Farmers Challenge Land Policies

<p>Rural farmers in China want legal ownership rights for the state-owned lands they farm.</p>
January 14, 2008, 1pm PST | Nate Berg
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"The broad, flat fields surrounding Changchunling belong to the farmers who work them, they declared, and not to the local government. The farmers then began dividing up the village's collective holdings, with the goal of making each family the owner of a private plot."

"The uprising began here in the frigid, snow-covered soybean fields around Fujin city, 900 miles northeast of Beijing in Heilongjiang province, close to the Russian border. In a few weeks, it had spread to half a dozen other areas around the country, raising fundamental ideological questions for a government that still describes itself as Marxist-Leninist after 30 years of economic reforms."

"Although much of the communist system has been jettisoned over the years, all of China's rural land is still owned by the state. Farmers have usually been allowed to lease plots for 30 years at a stretch, after which they can renew the lease. But ownership -- and the right to sell -- has remained in the hands of village-level leaders and party secretaries."

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Published on Monday, January 14, 2008 in The Washington Post
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