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China to cool economy by curbing illegal land use

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, June 7 (Reuters) China said it will intensify efforts to cool the economy by tightening land releases after finding 60 percent of recent commercial land acquisitions in some Chinese cities have been unlawful.

The Ministry of Land and Resources said an investigation carried out this year showed that in some cities the amount of land taken up by developers without proper approvals reached 90 percent or more of land developed, the official Xinhua news agency reported late yesterday.

A recent ministry meeting said illegal land use was stoking excessive investment and -- not for the first time -- urged local land officials to crack down on unapproved commercial land development, the ministry reported on its Web site (www.mlr.gov.cn) yesterday.

''Large volumes of investment are ultimately ending up in land, and a considerable number of projects use land that has been unlawfully acquired,'' the ministry report said. ''The task of strengthening macro controls by further tightening land administration is extremely onerous.'' Seeking to rein in galloping property investment and mass protests about land grabs, the central government has this year announced a raft of restrictions, including new taxes on house sales and restrictions on house size and credit.

But the land ministry official blamed local officials for flouting these efforts.

''Virtually all serious problems of unlawful land use seem to be related to local governments, and central government orders are very difficult to implement in some places,'' the official said.

Local officials who are slow in pursuing cases may be stripped of the power to ratify new land development. And province land offices must investigate at least eight ''serious illegal land use cases'' by the end of the year and hand out punishments, the ministry said.

Reuters SK VP0640

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