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Villagers' future blowing in the wind

Updated: 2011-03-10 08:03

By Chen Xin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Confiscation of farmland, insufficient compensation and a lack of employable skills have left millions of Chinese farmers living difficult lives, with many losing confidence in their future, said a national political adviser on Wednesday.

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About 60 percent of farmers who had lost their land found life more difficult after their land was confiscated, while only 30 percent said their life was not affected, said Zhang Yuanfu, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.

More than 80 percent worried about their future.

Zhang was speaking at the ongoing annual session of the political advisory body in the capital, quoting figures from a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Among the 7,187 farmers polled, nearly 25 percent went to cities to make a living, 27 percent started small businesses, 25 percent chose to continue farming and 20 percent became unemployed, Zhang said.

Experts estimate that more than 40 million farmers have lost their farmland, and about 2 million became landless in each of the past five years, he said.

The NBS survey showed that among those who worried about their future, 73 percent worried about life in their senior years, 63 percent worried about their income, while 53 percent worried about their medical treatment, he said.

Under current Chinese law, rural land is collectively owned - and while farmers have the right to use the land, they cannot own it. The government has the right to confiscate that land in the public interest.

However, a recent survey released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences suggests that in reality many cases of confiscation are done for commercial reasons.

"Losing land means a farmer loses the most precious treasure of his family, the basis to make a living, as well as his security to support the elderly and raise the young," Zhang said.

Chen Lirong, a farmer in Jiangjin district, Chongqing municipality, said the 1,330 square meters of farmland her household farmed was confiscated last year and each family member received compensation of 28,000 yuan ($4,260).

"The money is not enough for my family to afford an apartment in town. So I'm in debt now. Since I lost my land, I have to work in a nearby factory and I can only earn less than 1,000 yuan a month," the 45-year-old told China Daily.

Villagers' future blowing in the wind

"Many people in my village are in the same situation and I even have a problem affording my daughter's college tuition fees," she said.

Zhang said "public interest" needed to be clearly interpreted in the law.

"Governments should not confiscate the land if it's not in the public interest, and farmers should have a say in the confiscation and they should be granted rights to supervise land use," Zhang said.

He also called for more compensation to be offered to farmers.

A solution to farmers' basic living, employment and social security should be a key index to gauge the achievement of local governments, he said.

"All farmers should be covered by the country's pension system and enjoy medical and unemployment insurance and the minimum living security payment," he added.


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