Skip to content

Farmers Initiate Second Revolution in Land Ownership

In mid December 2007, three headlines appeared on overseas Chinese websites announcing the farmes were taking back Land Ownership: “40,000 Heilongjiang Farmers’ Declare to the Whole Nation: Permanent and Full Land Ownership,” “About 70,000 Sanmenxia Farmers Declare the Retaking of Land Ownership,” “Jiangsu 250 Farm Families Declare to the Whole Nation: Permanent Ownership of Residence Bases.”

In mid December 2007, three headlines appeared on overseas Chinese websites: “40,000 Heilongjiang Farmers’ Declare to the Whole Nation: Permanent and Full Land Ownership,” [1] “About 70,000 Sanmenxia Farmers Declare the Retaking of Land Ownership,” [2] “Jiangsu 250 Farm Families Declare to the Whole Nation: Permanent Ownership of Residence Bases.” [3]

At the time the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949, China was practicing the same private land ownership commonly found in economic history. Land rights, including the rights to ownership, use, lease, transactions, mortgage, gift, and inheritance belonged to individuals. In 1956 the regime began the “Collectivization Movement” in rural China, using political power to centralize the land once distributed to farmers and to implement collective farming by force. Immediately after, [the CCP] speedily rolled out the “Communization Movement,” executing collective land ownership and abolishing private land ownership. From that point on, the government took over all land rights and all land.

Article 10 of the Chinese Constitution stipulates, “Rural lands are collectively owned, but the government can levy land taxes or confiscate lands by compensating the farmers.” From the 1980s until around 1992 and from 2003 onwards, a total of three land “enclosure movements” took place in China. Businessmen with government background looted the farmers’ land at extremely low prices in the name of “representing the country.” According to China Construction Bank, from the beginning of 2001 to May 2007, developers had purchased 2.2 billion square meters (23.7 billion square feet) of land with only 1.296 billion square meters actually developed. About 1 billion square meters of land still remained in the hands of developers, enough to supply the whole country’s real estate market for five years. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, in 2005 there were over 40 million farmers who had lost their land. Over the next five years, as urbanization continues to increase, an additional annual average of 2.65 million Chinese farmers will lose their land over the next five years. According to the Whole Country Land Utilization Planning Outline compiled by the State Council, during the thirty years from 2000 to 2030, 54.50 million mu (8.98 million acres) of farming land will be taken for construction. It’s estimated that with every mu of farm land taken, 1.5 farmers will lose their livelihood. This suggests that China’s “land-losing farmers” will increase from 40 million some years in the past to 110 million in 2030.

In 2007, China’s National People’s Congress passed the Property Rights Law. The law is intended to protect private property. The new law, however, did not make a dent in the current land policy. Even less did it break through the systemic limitations of Chinese socialism. On December 13, 2007, the police gave a criminal detention notice to the family of a civil rights representative who had been helping  Fujin farmers who had lost their land. The police gave a criminal detention notice to Yu Changwu. Representatives for the arrested farmers in Shanxi’s Sanmenxia Reservoir District, Chen Sizhong and Xi Xinji, are under criminal detention. Their arrests have been “formalized” by the Huayin Municipal Procuratorate.
Below is a translation of the Heilongjiang and Sanmenxia Resevoir farmers’ declarations.

Notice of Dongnangang Village, Fujin City, Heilongjiang Province 72 villages, 40,000 Heilongjiang Farmers’ Declare to the Whole Nation: Permanent and Full Land Ownership [1]

We are 40,000 farmers in a total of 10 townships’ 72 administrative villages including Changan Township, Xinglong Townships, and Toulin Tonwship in Fujin City, Heilongjiang Province. In response to Fujin officials at various levels using the need for development of the country as an excuse to forcibly take 1.5 million mu (0.25 million acres) of farmland and wilderness since 1994, we declare our ownership rights as follows:

1. We, 40,000 farmers in 72 administrative villages, have ownership rights to the 1.5 million mu of land. With villages as the boundaries and farm families as the units, the originally occupied collective land [will] all be distributed equally among the whole body of villagers.

2. A farm family’s land ownership rights include the right to use, the right to earn, the right to inherit, , and the to negotiate and the right to set prices when the government or developers want to take the land for development.

3. Over 900 villagers from Dongnangang Village, Changan Township took the lead in taking back 996 shuang (about 15,000 mu) of occupied land, and have already distributed it evenly among the whole body of villagers. Before doing so, they dismissed the former head of the village, who had colluded with officials who encroached on the farmers’ collective interest. All other villages will follow this method in succession to regain and evenly distribute the occupied land in each village. Every villagers’ committee and all other self-governing organizations elected by villagers have the responsibility to support the farmers on this proposal [of land-ownership], have the responsibility to organize and lead the entire body of villagers to take back the occupied land that originally collectively belonged to the villagers, and have the responsibility to distribute the land according to the principal of individual equity. [When] encountering collusion between officials and businessmen or forcible requisitions, every villagers’ committee and [every] self-governing organization has the obligation to organize [a] village militia to defend to the death the farmers’ land ownership rights.

4. The CCP’s organizations at various levels and the government at various levels should, in accordance with the revolutionary ideal and the promise of ‘land to the tillers’ in those years, lead the farmers to land reform, like in the early stage of reformation, support the farmers’ land operation rights, respect farmers’ pioneering spirit, and support and protect farmers’ various land rights. The Central Committee of the Party has, for many years, cared about the countryside, cared about why the farmer’s preferential policies were never implemented, and why farmers’ circumstances can never undergo a substantial change. The root [of the problem] is “favor but no implementation.” Completely give the land to the farmers—only then can [this] be the most effective and the most realistic preferential policy. Currently China’s countryside is still fundamentally unsuited for collective operation. When the time is appropriate and when it’s necessary, we, the farmers, will self-organize a collective operation.
5. Collective land in the countryside should belong to the whole body of villagers who form the collective. Farmers have the right to decide together on the form of land ownership. For a long time, the so-called collective ownership, in reality, denied the rights of the farmers as land owners. Various levels of the Fujin municipal government have repeatedly and wantonly occupied and privately possessed farmers’ land in the name of the country and the collective. In reality, [they] have become the ‘landowners.’ But the farmers—the real owners of the land—have been forced to become serfs who toil for the ‘landowners’’ land. Together we decided to change this kind of land ownership. Through ownership by farm families and farm individuals, we truly implement and protect the status of farmers as land owners.

6. We believe, just like at the beginning stage of reformation and opening up—where farmers owned the right to operate the land, great changes took place in the countryside—farmers’ land-ownership rights won by farmers will create even greater changes in the countryside. We, farmers, have suffered enough from pillage, suppression, and the fate of having no help from the heaven and earth. Now we believe that only when farmers directly practice [their] rights, will farmers have rights, and will farmers’ human rights improve.

Land is a farmers’ life; it is the farmers’ greatest human right. [Only when farmers] truly have land-owning rights, can we farmers settle down and get on with our lives, can Chinese farmers settle down and get on with their lives, can the entire country settle down and move on.

December 8, 2007

In Shanxi Province Former Yellow River about 70,000 Sanmenxia Farmers Declare They are Regaining Land Ownership [2]

We are about 70,000 returning farmers [from] 76 administrative villages of Dali County, Huayin City, and Tongguan County. [When] the country built the Sanmenxia Reservoir in the 1950’s, [it] occupied a total of 800,000 mu of our farm land. Through 30 years of blood-and-tears resistance by tens of thousands of migrants, who were forced to leave home, in the 1980s, the State Council appropriated 300,000 mu of land to settle returning migrants. In actuality, the migrants were only given 150,000 mu. Another 150,000 mu of farm land belonging to the farmers as clearly stipulated by the State Council directive, was directly taken by Weinan City and Sanmenxia County officials at various levels, or has been taken in actuality under various names and used by those seeking their own economic interests. Annual land rental alone amounts to 40 to 60 million yuan. Heretofore, close to 120,000 of the 150,000 mu of occupied land has already disappeared from the reported statistics. This is to say that not only have the officials used various means to actually occupy the land, they have also been brazenly swallowed the land. Large and small modern-day “landlords” have appeared in the Reservoir District. For us migrants, the actual average cultivation land is less than 2 mu (0.33 acres) per person. In order to make a living, [we] are forced to pay officials high rent to farm the land that originally belonged to us. Several decades of appeals hasn’t solved [the problem], the procedures stipulated by the law hasn’t solved [the problem.] {mospagebreak}
We, approximately 70,000 Sanmenxia County farmers, now together decide to take back our right to land ownership, and announce the following to the entire country (each of the undersigned is a family representative):

1. Every family of ours has permanent ownership rights to the individually contracted land [in the] total of 150,000 mu originally in the village collective. Land allocation and usage belong to our offspring. We have the right to use, rent, inherit [the land]; if someone wants to develop, rent or occupy [the land], please negotiate with us directly. We only recognize [those] governmental planning agencies that are in accordance with the public interest and [those] taxes stipulated by the law.

2. Every family of ours also has permanent ownership rights to the 150,000 mu of land that were appropriated back to the farmers by the State Council but which have long been occupied and privately possessed by officials at various levels. We will organize together, and directly give back [the land] to each family for permanent ownership according to average farmer acreage, [and] end the many years of illegal occupation and possession of land by officials from various levels.

3. We abandon the original ‘village collective’ form of land ownership. This kind of land [ownership] cannot guarantee farmers’ permanent rights to the land. This kind of ‘village collective’ often cannot accurately reflect the consensus of the entire village of farmers, cannot stop officials and the black force’s illegal infringement of the land [rights] and on other farmers’ interests. Every village committee shall assume the responsibility of protecting farmers’ land rights, and cannot place [its will] above the whole body of farmers, or occupy or allocate land.

4. As to the billions of various migrant fees annually appropriated by the country for the past several decades, we also need to square the account. What belongs to the farmers must be given to the farmers. [We] will also pursue the related illegal behavior, such as corruption, embezzlement, occupation, etc.

5. We have land ownership rights. If, in addition, we can run enterprises in education and health care sector, the three new ‘mountains’ on top of the farmers will be removed. The farmers’ social security will basically be taken care of by itself. In recent years, the Central Committee of the Party has given farmers some economic sops. We believe only farmers’ land rights and entrepreneurial rights are big economic favors. [Only then] can the countryside’s problems be solved from the root, can farmers be equal to the city dwellers, and can [they] participate and share the fruits of modernization. [Only then] can villagers’ self-governing elections [that has been instituted] for the past twenty years truly be decent.
6. We, in the countryside, are very clear: No matter what laws and what policies the government uses, it will be very difficult to manage the land. [If] land rights are again returned into the hands of farmers, those bad forces blinded by greed won’t dare to act recklessly. Because [what] you’ll be occupying, will no longer be collective land. It will be my land, my life root. I’ll risk my life. When the power of the farmers is mobilized, the government will be free from the burden to protect the land. Base level government will then rely on industrial and farming taxes to maintain operation. [It] can no longer depend on taking farmers’ land and engaging in the so-called ‘land finance.’

We, the Reservoir District farmers, send regards to the entire country’s people!

December 12, 2007

End Notes:
[1], December 9, 2007
[2], December 12, 2007
[3] Aboluo Web, December 15, 2007