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China: Revised Land Administration Law Takes Effect

(Feb. 20, 2020) On January 1, 2020, the newly revised People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) Land Administration Law (Land Law) went into effect. Previously, on August 26, 2019, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress had adopted a comprehensive amendment to the country’s primary land law.

According to the official Xinhua news agency of the PRC, the amendment aims to “clarify land property rights, improve administration, and regulate government land requisition.”

Highlights of the New Land Law

Allowing Rural Construction Land to Enter the Market

The revised Land Law allows “collective land for for-profit construction” in a rural area to be transferred to others or leased out by landowners. These transactions must be approved by a villagers’ committee or village meeting. The previous Land Administration Law prohibited such rural construction land from entering the market.

Meanwhile, after obtaining the “land-use right” for such land as provided for under Chinese law, the user can further transfer the right. (Art. 63.) Conversion into state-owned land by the government, which was required by the previous Law as the prerequisite for the rural construction land to enter the market, is no longer required under the new Law. (Art. 45.)

Reforming the Land Requisition System

Both the Chinese Constitution and the previous Land Law stipulate that the state may acquire land for the needs of the public interest without defining the term “public interest.” For the first time, the revised Law specifies that the rural land may be expropriated for the purposes of military or diplomacy; infrastructure construction organized by the government; the government’s public welfare undertakings; and the alleviation of poverty and relocation of the poor. (Art. 45.)

Loosening Control over Homestead Transactions

A “homestead” is land collectively owned by a village but occupied or used by rural families as a residential base. The revised Law allows rural villagers who have moved into the cities to “voluntarily” surrender their rural homestead with due compensation, which allows villages to otherwise utilize the surrendered land and residence. (Art. 62.)

Establishing a Stringent Farmland Protection System

The term “basic farmland” in the previous Law has been replaced by “basic permanent farmland” in the revised Law, indicating that one of the core values and purposes of the Law is to ensure the national food supply. Under article 35, essential national projects that cannot avoid occupying any basic permanent farmland must be preapproved by the State Council.

Prepared by Yude Shen and Haolin Wang, Foreign Law Interns, under the supervision of Laney Zhang.