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Officials punished over land scandal

FOUR officials have been punished over land requisition malpractices in Henan Province's Lingbao City.

The government of Sanmenxia City, Lingbao's higher-tier administrative city, announced the punishment last night.

Huang Songtao, Party secretary of Lingbao's Dawang Town, and Li Jianqiang, vice director of Lingbao Land Resource Administration Bureau, have been fired. Zhai Haijiang, director of the Yangdian center of the Lingbao land bureau, has received a demerit. Gao Yongrui, Lingbao's vice mayor, received an administrative warning.

Lingbao's city government has been ordered to conduct self-criticism over the scandal.

The Sanmenxia government launched an inquiry after media reports told of a local resident who had been detained for eight days in February after revealing the land requisition scandal in an online post.

The resident, Wang Shuai, was accused of libeling the Lingbao government, but was later released and compensated by the government early this month.

Sanmenxia's investigation found the Lingbao government had applied to acquire a total of 1,025 mu (682,650 square meters) of farm land since 2007 to build an industrial zone.

Though only 327 mu of the total applied for had been approved, the government actually used 780 mu, of which 453 mu was occupied without approval.

The government also demolished all the crops and buildings on the land before compensation was fully paid to the farmers.

Xi Shaoxing, a Dawang Town villager, told Xinhua news agency that a notice about the land requisition project involving a dozen villages in the town was posted last summer.

Without giving any other notice, village officials arrived in February and asked residents to uproot trees and clear the land.

Xi said the loss of the land caused a huge reduction in income.

He has so far been paid 3,400 yuan (US$498.36) in compensation for the land, compared to the 40,000 yuan he earned annually from the 121 apple trees he looked after on 4 mu of land.

Wang's family is in the same plight. The family earned 40,000 yuan from its fruit trees last year but his income dropped to 5,000 yuan a year after the land was taken, his father said.

The family has to live on 3 yuan a head per day, he said.


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