From Legal Daily, summarized and translated by CDT:
For a long time, it has been a traditional approach for local farmers after harvesting corn to burn the remaining corn stalks. This not only causes serious air pollution, but also harms the ecological environment and the land. Thus, relevant ministries have issued a ban on burning straw and now actively promote and guide farmers to process straw scientifically. The burning of straw is unconditionally prohibited. However, people in Cheng’an County of Hebei Province have had a hard time accepting this practice.
Since this fall Zhang Zhenling, a 70-year-old man from Zhuzhuang Village, Zhanghedian Town, Cheng’an County of Hebei Province has been worried about whether he should harvest the corn on his own land or not. On September 24, Zhang was scolded and hit by the town officials, as he cut his corn without a “straw recline license” (Áß∏ÁßÜÊîæÂÄíËØÅ) [which required farmers to cut the full corn stalk before harvesting it in order to avoid burning the leftover stalks] issued by the county. The local police did not accept the case as the two sides were not injured.
Zhang’s daughter questioned the Zhanghedian Town government about why her father was hit. The secretary of the town said, “If you secretly recline the straw without the recline license, the police station will punish you. This is the ‘above requirement’.”
The “above requirement” refers to the county committee’s No. 18 (2007) paper, “county government’s work review on the implementation and ban on burning straw”, which states that “farmers who need to recline corn straw have to hold a ‘straw recline license’ printed by Cheng’an County straw and ban headquarters. Also farmers need to make sure to recline one day and clean on the same day.”
“Since ancient times, we have invented a way to break off the corn after cutting and laying down the the corn stalk. If we don’t recline, standing next to the corn and breaking it off will make us hot and tired. Now suddenly they create this recline permit, and without a permit we get beaten, ” said Zhang. “I simply cannot burn stalks. I would like to keep them to feed my own cows. Does the county government have to control how we harvest our corn? Really ridiculous.”
Some villagers in Zhuzhuang Village said that most villagers do not have “straw recline licenses,” and they do not know where to get one. They still follow the traditional way by first cutting then breaking off the corn. When they see town government officials come, they just run away.
Cheng’an County this fall was required to reach 19 million mu farmland for comprehensive utilization. This will effect many farmers’ land, like Zhang’s. The “straw recline license” has been an issue. How many straw recline licenses did the county issue? The county government refused to reveal the figures. Insiders said that not many villagers applied because of the poor implementation. Also why was such a paper, without any legal basis and with bad implementation, introduced by the county government?
The neighboring county of Cheng’an also issued a similar paper. It was called “straw recline permit” instead. The phrase “straw recline license” only appeared on reports from counties in Handan City, Hebei Province.
Lawyer Song Zhenjiang, the legal adviser of Handan city government, said, China’s Administrative Licensing Law Article 17 provides that: no other regulatory documents will be allowed to set administrative permission. Thus it is clear that Cheng’an county government does not have the power to set administrative licensing, which is beyond the terms of the law and contrary to the basic policy of governing the country according to law.
In a telephone interview Zhang’s daughter said, she helped her father to harvest the corn using the traditional way. But without a “straw recline license”, they are afraid the county government will punish them in the future.
Related CDT post: A List of Permits/Fees for Chinese
[Image: Zhang Zhenling on his land, via Xinhua]