Land Grabs and Murder

July 14, 2015

A friend and expatriate living in China sent me a link to a piece written by Gillian Wong for her New Witness accounts renew suspicions over Chinese village leader’s gruesome death.

Gillian Wong wrote, “The persisting suspicions about Qian’s death reflect a growing lack of trust in China’s government as rampant corruption and official abuse erode public confidence.”

The language Wong uses to place blame bothers me. What she writes assumes that China’s central government has total control over everything that happens in China, which it doesn’t. China is about the size of the United States with almost five times the population, and most police work and governing takes place at the local level as in the US.

In fact, China couldn’t have joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001 without having a legal system in place similar to most Western democracies, which means this issue of a rural village leader being murdered over a land grab has to be dealt with by China’s infant legal system guided by the laws of China and not the laws of another country like the United States.

And this means criminals often go free—for instance, like in the United States. If the evidence and witnesses do not exist, no one is punished. The old days of Chinese officials rounding up the accused and executing them without evidence and a proper trial are supposed to be over.

For example, in 1973, Al Pacino played the part of an honest real-life New York cop, Frank Serpico, who blew the whistle on corruption in the city police force only to have his comrades in police uniforms turn against him. Pacino’s film was based on a true story.

The US even has a witness protection program to protect the lives of innocent people from criminals that want to erase all evidence against them even if it means murdering witnesses

I’ve written about corruption in China before and what is being done about it. What the West considers corruption in China and all of Asia was a way of life for several thousand years. The old ways of doing things do not change instantly just because a foreign legal system and new laws are created.

To allow this new legal system to work, the slow wheels of justice must be allowed to turn and that doesn’t guarantee that justice will be served. If you believe China is doing nothing about crime and corruption, then I suggest you read What China’s Anti-Corruption Investigation Means For International Business from Forbes.

Another American movie, Walking Tall, was also based on the true story of honest Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, who almost single-handily cleaned up his small town of crime and corruption, but at a horrible price, and he nearly lost his life as Serpico did.

No, I refuse to blame that rural village leader’s death on China’s central government, and I cannot expect Beijing to send in the teenage Red Guard goon squad, which doesn’t exist anymore, as Mao would have done during the Cultural Revolution to punish everyone accused of a crime, even innocent people, without evidence as defined by China’s new legal system.

Gillian Wong also says, “Qian’s death is the latest violent incident to touch a nerve among the Chinese public, angry over official corruption and abuse of power, including unfair seizure of farmers’ land for development…”

Wong’s statements make it sound as if the land belongs to the farmers. It doesn’t.

In fact, the land the farmers work belongs to the collective and the government but not individuals. In fact, even the title to urban homes individuals buy in cities clearly says that all the land belongs to the government. It’s more of a long-term lease.

How do you measure fair compensation of land that never legally belonged to the farmers in the first place?

Before 1949, most rural land belonged to a small number of wealthy landowners. In fact, the ancestors of the peasant farmers working the land today were tenant farmers that paid rent to the real landowners, who often abused the peasants.

After winning the Chinese civil war, Mao allowed the peasants to punish many of the original landowners and almost one million were found guilty and executed.

Correct me if you have other “facts”, but most of China’s rural farmers have worked the land free for about sixty years with no rent, no mortgage and no property tax.

As for murder, with a Western style legal system and no witnesses willing to step forward, there is no case. The main character of My Splendid Concubine wrote in one of his journals that in China the innocent were often punished along with the guilty while in England the criminals often went free and there was no justice for the victims. What does that mean for China now that it’s developing a Western style (capitalist) legal system?

Then there is the law of eminent domain. “The power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The (United States) Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.”  – Cornell University Law School

What about China? – An Analysis of the Conflict in Chinese Property Law: Eminent Domain Powers versus Real Property Rights

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China, the Power of Government and Eminent Domain

December 2, 2012

Gillian Wong of the Associated Press reported on a lone, rural Chinese farmer that had resisted selling his house to the local government so a new road could be completed.  The photo shows a house sitting in the middle of an almost finished road with pavement surrounding it.

If that had been in the US, the house would have been gone long before the road was build—something Wong fails to mention is that this sort of thing happens in the US all the time and it started during the decades that the roads and highways spread across the US like a spider web.

In fact, local US governments do not need to wait for the owner of a house to agree to sell. It can force the owner to sell and then use the police/marshals to move him or her out using force if necessary.

I still remember reading about one incident in The Los Angeles Times that happened in Southern California during the craze to build freeways there.

The home owner was a combat veteran from World War II, Korea or Vietnam (I do not remember which war).  This vet refused to move out of his house even after the local government forced him to sell it.  He claimed he wasn’t being paid what he had invested in the house in improvements.

This American vet filled sandbags and stacked them against the walls of his house; he stocked up on canned foods, bullets, rifles and a gas mask along with a bullet-proof vest. No one was going to take his house away from him.

A swat team had to be called in, tear gas was used and the swat team broke into his house and swarmed him before he could shoot anyone. Then off to jail and court he went to be judged by a jury of his peers. I never did find out what the outcome of that trial was.

In the US, as states, cities and towns expand and improve roadways, sewer and power lines, communications and other system, local governments often secure or acquire access to private land. Without the government’s power to do so, the size and capability or public infrastructure would become inadequate to serve the needs of society (the people) and often in the US the estimated value of a property does not match, because the government uses a different method to determine value not based on what the owner spent on the property but based on the value of other properties in the same community based on an average.  To the government, the value of the property is an estimated value. To the owner, it may be every penny he or she invested in the property.  Source: Find Law.com

In the US, this has been called legalized theft and it has been debated for decades. The following source is one example of that debate: Fee.org

The law is called Eminent Domain and it gives a government the power to buy private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner.

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia says: “Government power to take private property for public use without the owner’s consent. Constitutional provisions in most countries, including the U.S. (in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution), require the payment of just compensation to the owner. As a power peculiar to sovereign authority and coupled with a duty to pay compensation, the concept was developed by such 17th-century natural-law jurists as Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf.”

Therefore, why is this incident in China worthy of media attention in the US, and I wonder if China’s media ever reported on similar incidents in America?

After all, they happen all the time and are often ignored by the American media because they are so common. If you doubt what I say, watch the three-part PBS program embedded in this post.

Discover Dr. Li’s illusive Memoires

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Controversy, Complexity and Reality behind China’s One-Child Policy

October 3, 2011

Louise Watt of the Associated Press writes of China’s wealthy wanting to leave China, and once again demonstrates the West’s ignorance of the one-child policy.

Pub Med Central provides a better history of the one-child policy.

“In 1979, the one-child family policy was developed and implemented in response to concerns about the social and economic consequences of continued rapid population growth,” Pub Med said, and, “implementation was more successful in urban areas than rural areas.”

Pub Med says, “It was hoped that third and higher order births could be eliminated and that about 30% of couples might agree to forgo a second child… In some of the largest and most advanced cities like Shanghai, sizeable proportions of couples already chose to have only one child (regardless of the law).

“As a result, it was not long before 90 percent of couples in urban areas were (easily) persuaded to restrict their families to a single child.”

However, Pub Med says, in rural areas of China the opposite happened, and 90 percent of women with one child went on to have a second (regardless of the law) and there wasn’t much the Communist Party could do to stop them.

AP’s Louise Watt writes, “Under China’s one-child policy in place for the last three decades to control population growth, couples can be penalized for having more than one child. In Beijing, the penalty is a one-off fee 3-10 times the city’s average income, a maximum of 250,000 yuan ($40,000).”

Watt also tells us that among the 20,000 Chinese with at least 100 million yuan ($15 million) 27 percent have already left China and 47 percent are considering it, and they want to leave so they can have more children on the cheap and buy land that does not belong to the government.

These wealthy Chinese Louise Watt writes of may be surprised to discover that if the U.S. wants to build a school, park, freeway or shopping center, and your house is in the way, it will be bought and bulldozed.

The law for this is called Eminent Doman and 60 Minutes at CBS News reported on possible abuses of this in the United States in February 2009. Rebecca Leung of CBS News wrote, “But did you know the government can also seize your land for private use if they can prove that doing it will serve what’s called ‘the public good’?”

In addition, it would be interesting to discover if some or all of the wealthy Chinese claiming to have left China to have more children and buy a home left for other reasons they are not talking of.

In The Danger of False Truths, I mentioned that thousands of corrupt Chinese officials stole more than $120-billion U.S. and fled overseas—and the U.S. was a top destination.

If so, the real reason many of these “wealthy” Chinese left China may have been to avoid going to prison or being executed.

In addition to Eminent Domain, if an American cannot pay the annual property tax or income tax in the United States, the house will be lost to the government.  I estimate that the property tax I paid since I first owned a home in 1973 would have paid the penalty for a dozen extra children in China.

In fact, due to property tax, no one really owns their homes in America and everyone is just a tenant, and the U.S.  Government is the landlord. In China, they call it like it is, while in the US, most people believe in fairy tales.

I suggest you read what Foreclosure Warehouse.com has to say on this topic.

And if you were worth $15 million dollars and wanted a second or third child, $40,000 a child would not dent that fortune.  In addition, in China when someone buys a house for that 70-year lease, the property tax is paid only once at the time of the purchase and currently there is no law that says you have to pay any property tax again unless it is an investment property.

When these rich Chinese arrive in the US and buy a million dollar house, they will be paying property tax annually. Taxes on land and the buildings on it are the biggest source of revenue for local governments.

In California, for example, property tax for a million dollar house costs about $10,000 a year, and forty years of property tax would cost about a half million dollars, which is much more than $40,000 for the second child and another $40,000 for the third child.

Maybe Louisa Watt should have also mentioned that U.S. citizenship is for sale for foreign millionaires and the details may be found at All Voices.com, and most Americans could not afford this legal bribe (sorry, I meant deal).

In fact, there’s a lot about China’s one-child policy that Louise Watt isn’t revealing, and what she writes may have to do with America’s busy-body, do as I say morality, which interferes as often as possible in the domestic philosophies and affairs of other countries—something China does not do.

For decades, China’s one-child policy has been criticized in America and/or the West mostly by evangelical, fundamentalist Christians that represent one of American’s squeaky wheels with a political agenda to force their beliefs on others.

However, what these critics do not know may shock them, but I doubt if it will deter their misguided zeal.

In the September/October 2011 issue of Foreign Policy magazine, Phillip Longman wrote The World Will Be More Crowded With Old People, and said, “Another related megatrend is the rapid change in the size, structure, and nature of the family. In many countries such as Germany, Japan, Russia, and South Korea, the one-child family is now becoming the norm (without a law)… Today about one in five people in advanced Western countries, including the United States, remains childless.”

AP’s Louise Watt also doesn’t tell us the one-child policy does not apply to the hundred million people in China that belong to one of the fifty-six minorities or many of the Han Chinese living in rural China where most Chinese don’t pay property tax, rent or a mortgage payment since the land is owned collectively and may not be sold.

Since minorities in China are a small segment of the population, China’s government practices flexibility with the minority birth rate in order to keep minorities an important part of China’s culture.

For example, Tibetans may not live the feudal, nomadic lifestyle with the 35-year lifespan they once had under the Dalai Lama (the average lifespan in Tibet today is more than 60 without the Dalai Lama), which they had before Mao sent the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) into Tibet in 1950.

Isn’t it horrible how the Tibetans were forced to give up that shorter average lifespan and feudal servitude?

However, as a minority, Tibetans may have as many children as they want and the penalty Louise Watt writes of does not exist for them.

We often hear of the Uighur Muslims since this minority has an Islamic separatist movement in the northwest near Afghanistan where the US is fighting a war against a similar insurgency, but the Uighurs are a minority so the one-child policy also does not apply them, and they are not the only Muslims in China.

The Hui are unique among the fifty-six officially recognized minorities of China in that Islam is their only unifying identity. They do not have a unique language as the other minorities do and often intermarry with Han Chinese.

In fact, many live outside the Hui autonomous region. Since the Hui are considered a minority, the one-child policy also does not apply to them.

The Chinese government says if it weren’t for the one-child policy, there would be another four-hundred million mouths to feed and provide shelter for. Instead of 1.3 billion people in China, there would be almost 2 billion—more than six times the population of the US, and China cannot grow crops on about 90% of its land.

France 24 International News reported another recent exception to China one-child policy for Shanghai.

Chinese law allows married couples in Shanghai that are both the only child of their parents to have two children even if they are Han Chinese.

To make sure these married couples are aware of this exception, China provides support from government run family planning centers that check on women’s health and inform them of their rights and responsibilities to have more than one child.

The Shanghai government encourages married couples eligible to have more than one child to do so, which, in Shanghai, means most married couples.

The Shanghai Family Planning Commission first promoted this policy in 2009. The reason for this campaign lies in Shanghai’s population demographics.

Because of the one-child policy, Shanghai has been particularly hard hit by an age disparity, and 22 percent of the citizens of Shanghai are over sixty and these numbers are expected to grow.

Xu Xihua, the director of Shanghai’s Aging Development Center says that by adjusting the one-child policy in Shanghai, this disparity in ages can be partially reduced and giving couples an opportunity to have two children is part of the plan.

However, the central government stresses it is not abandoning its family planning policies or its control over the number of births. Fear of overpopulation and potential famines remains high in a country that has a history of droughts, floods and famines, which is something the U.S. has not yet experienced in its brief history.

France 24 International News also reported how one Chinese couple wanted to have more than one child and the couple took advantage of loopholes in the one-child policy to have three.

The mother’s first child was a boy, and she was desperate to have a girl.

Since fines are less for a second child if delivered in a remote rural province, the couple moved south.

However, the mother discovered she was pregnant again soon after the birth of the second child, which was a girl, and the doctor told her that because of health reasons she couldn’t have an abortion.

And recently, authorities in China’s most populous province have asked Beijing to ease the one-child policy.

In addition, wealthy Chinese businessmen, television and movie stars often avoid the one-child policy since they have money to pay the fine Louise Watt writes of in her AP piece, and ten percent of rich Chinese have an average of three children and this practice is spreading among the upper-middle class. Since they stay in China, these wealthy Chinese avoid paying annual property tax in America.

Peng Xizhe, dean of social development and public policy at Fudan University, says “In the Maoist era everyone was controlled by his work unit. It’s over now. Many workers are independent. It becomes more and more difficult for the government to pressure people to having only one child.”

In fact, according to some experts, China will adopt a two-child policy in several years.

However, unexpected problems besides an aging population may have developed from the one-child policy, which is explained by a NPR All Things Considered report by Louisa Lim’s Lightning Divorces Strike China’s ME Generation.

Lim says Beijing has the highest divorce rate in China with 39 percent of all marriages ending in a split.

One Beijing woman, Cheng, tells Lim of her six-month marriage that ended as fast as it started. Cheng blamed the divorce on belonging to the generation of spoiled singletons (one-child), known as the post-1980’s generation.

Dr. Perry, a professor of economics and finance in the US, agrees that the upsurge in China’s divorce rate is because of the selfish and narcissistic generation of spoiled one-child children in China (have you already forgotten that many of these urban parents decided to have only one child before or in spite of the law).

But hold on, there may be another explanation why Beijing’s divorce rate is soaring. Eight years ago, a married couple needed permission from their work unit to divorce. Today, couples have the freedom to divorce in China without asking.

Although it may be difficult to link China’s changing divorce rate to the one-child policy, there is another outcome that cannot be denied.

China may have cut off a foot to save its stomach from starvation.

Studies predict that China will soon be short 24 million wives. It doesn’t matter that it is illegal in China to take a test for non-medical reasons that determines the sex of the fetus.

Since China’s culture traditionally prefers boys to girls, many parents go to underground private clinics to find out what the sex of the fetus is. If it is a girl, many terminate the pregnany with an illegal abortion.

The results is a growing shortage of women leading to illegal forced marriages and prostitution (sex slaves), which is a challenge for the police and courts to deal with.

After you learn more of the details of China’s one-child policy, you discover that it was a law without many teeth and didn’t deserve the criticism it received, which leads to the conclusion that the American and/or West’s reaction is due mostly to racist Sinophobia.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note: Information that appears in this post first appeared on March 7, 2010 in One Child, on March 18, 2010 in The One-Child Tragedy, on November 5, 2010 in Exemptions in China’s one-child policy,  on November 28, 2010 in Reversing China’s one-child Policy, and on November 29, 2010 in Avoiding China’s one-child Policy.