Peasants’ Struggle for Land in China
MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES AND ACCESS TO JUSTICE, pp. 136-160, Yash Ghai and Jill Cottrell, eds., Routledge, 2009
Posted: 25 Mar 2010
Date Written: February 2009
Tens of millions of Chinese peasants have been affected by the loss of their land in the past two decades. This has given rise to many disputes, which in many cases have culminated in physical resistance to land takings and evictions. Wrongful takings have been among the factors preventing the development of a sound law on land tenure and property rights. The principal cause of the phenomenon of land grabs is China’s rapid urbanization, estimated to see the migration of hundreds of millions more Chinese people into urban areas within the next few decades. To handle the land disputes in rural China is an important challenge faced by Chinese society. If they are not handled well, the resulting protests may ultimately lead to major social and political upheaval. This paper provides a brief overview of China’s land rights and land tenure system, and of the legal status of its peasants today. It describes how expropriations happen in rural China, and describes avenues of redress and forms of protest and resistance chosen by the peasants in such cases. Increasingly explicit defiance of the written law that provides a basis for land grabs underlines the urgent need for fundamental changes of the current property regime.
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