Edited by Susan Trevaskes, Elisa Nesossi, Flora Sapio and Sarah Biddulph
Chapter 3: ‘If we award this case to you, all the Chinese people would come to us for justice!’ Land-taking cases in the shadow of social stability
Despite recent legislation and regulations to protect homeowners’ rights, land taking is probably the most important source of violent conflict in China today. Laws allow people to own their homes, but the land on which homes are built remains the property of the state. Over the last decade, local governments intent on acquiring revenue through land development have appropriated vast amounts of residential and farming land. Buildings are demolished, frequently against the will of those who have built their lives and livelihoods on an understanding of their entitlement to land and home. In many instances, legal procedures for eviction and compensation are not followed properly. Farmers and homeowners receive only a fraction of their legal due; all too often the local government and its corrupt officials take the bigger slice. Gross disparity between the losses of aggrieved individuals and the gains of real estate developers and city officials only exacerbates dissatisfaction (Upham 2011: 257–60). The number of often violent ‘mass incidents’ has continued to increase for well over a decade (Chongqing Municipality 2010). According to one estimate, of the 180,000 collective actions in 2010, the number caused by forced evictions was greater than that based on all other causes of actions combined (Jacobs 2011). Homeowners have drawn from a repertoire of resistance actions including protests, demonstrations, petitioning to higher-level governments, and point blank refusing to move out – the so-called ‘hard nail households’ (dingzihu) (see Erie 2012).
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