A First: Farmers Defeat Provincial Govt Without Going to Court, or Beijing – Southern Breeze

The lawyer for a group of Zhejiang farmers who recently reclaimed their land from provincial and local governments describes the victory as equivalent to winning the lottery. Justice was earned, not from the court, but by a ruling from the State Council. Translated from Southern Breeze (南风窗) magazine:

In 1999, the government of Longquan City (ÈæôÊ≥âÂ∏Ç) in Zhejiang Province tried to “reclaim state land” totalling 20 hectares from farmers by ruling that the land was worthless for agriculture. The government bought the land at 65 yuan/square meter and sold it for around 3,000 yuan/sqaure meter. The situation became so serious that bulldozer-armed officials came to a potentially riotous stand-off with villagers, who risked their lives in defending their land. Four Xinhua reporters mixed in with the farmers wrote an internal report (ÂÜÖÈÉ®ÂèÇËÄÉ) that caught the attention of Beijing leaders.

Zhang Lifeng (º†‰∏ΩÈîã), the lead petitioner, chose to forgo the usual route of fighting land seizures–a journey to Beijing–after fruitless attempts to reach leaders in Hangzhou, the provincial capital. Instead, he happened on a handful of articles on land seizures written by a Beijing lawyer, Zhang Xingshui (º†ÊòüÊ∞¥), and figured that the lawyer could help them. Lawyer Zhang soon presented the case to the State Counil, which sent in two teams to investigate last year.

Beijing handed down its verdict in February, two months after a final investigative trip to Zhejiang, correcting the local governments’ designation of the parcels as wasteland. Zhang, the farmer, now has proud status as the first individual to defeat a provincial government in the State Council since the founding of the People’s Republic. Also saved is the livelihood of farmers, who depend on the land for the cash they can earn, nearly 10,000 yuan a year per mu of land, by feeding Longquan residents with their vegetables. [Full Text in Chinese]

July 8, 2007 2:30 PM
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Categories: Law, Society