Chinese Report: Urban Demolitions Down 40 Percent, Authorities Investigate 70,000 Cases Involving Illegal Rural Land Transactions in 2004

April 4, 2005

The “scale” of urban demolition and relocation “decreased by 40%” in 2004 and haphazard, large-scale demolition and construction practices have begun to come under control, according to a Southern Metropolitan Daily report. It is unclear if the 40% figure refers to the area subject to demolition, the number of residents affected, or simply the number of demolition sites. The article trumpets efforts to control urban demolitions and resulting problems through new notification, hearing, and appeal systems; better compensation management; enhanced supervision of demolition and appraisal units; and the construction of affordable housing. According to the report, during 2005, the government plans to hold the scale of demolition and relocation at 2004 levels. In areas with a high prevalence of conflict over demolitions, new demolitions are prohibited, except where required for important public works, social development, and affordable housing projects.

The report also highlights government efforts to control land abuses in the countryside during 2004, noting that authorities investigated 70,600 land cases involving violations of law or discipline and completed 60,700 cases, confiscating 6,128 hectares of land. According to the article, the Ministry of Land and Resources, which formed a working group last year to examine problems in rural land requisitions, will keep pressure on local governments, strictly handle violations of peasant rights, and focus on systems to maintain the living standards of peasants whose land is requisitioned.

For analysis of the report, see below.


The statement that the area of land subject to demolition decreased in 2004 is plausible. The central government has expressed alarm about both China’s overheated economy and unrest stemming from urban demolitions and, as a result, imposed strict limits on demolitions in April 2004 and again in October 2004 (for a related story, click here).

For several reasons, however, government claims that the “scale” of urban demolition decreased 40% in 2004 should be interpreted with caution. First, as noted above, it is unclear what the 40% figure refers to. A decrease in the number of demolition sites, for example, does not necessarily mean that the number of individuals and area affected decreased at a corresponding rate. Second, recent Chinese reports indicate that some local governments are resisting central government efforts to control the scale of demolition (see related stories here and here). Local governments or the relevant ministries could be reporting the figures that they believe the center wants to hear in order to avoid censure. Finally, many sources suggest that the number of demonstrations, petitions, and lawsuits related to demolitions continued to rise last year (see related stories (1, 2) and the property rights section of the 2004 CECC Annual Report.) All of these factors suggest that the 40 percent figure could be inflated.