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China Unveils Hotly Debated Law Protecting Private Property


China's parliament has introduced a law protecting private property, marking what analysts say is a significant step in the country's move from old-style communism toward a capitalist society. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing.

The law was subjected to a ten-year delay, with party hardliners worried that it undermines the basic tenets of socialist doctrine. However, proponents argue the law reflects the realities of today's China, where three decades of economic liberalization have created one of the world's fastest-growing economies and lifted tens of millions out of poverty.

At a Thursday session of the National People's Congress, Wang Zhaoguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the parliament, said the law is necessary for that prosperity to continue. Reading the text, he said Chinese people "urgently require" protection of the property they have accumulated "through hard work."

"Enactment of the property law will serve to define and protect private ownership, condominium right, land contractual right, and house-site-use right, for the purpose of protecting the immediate interests of the people, stimulating their vigor to create wealth and promoting social harmony," he said.

The law was introduced as the communist leadership deals with growing unrest in the countryside, where peasants have protested - often violently - the seizure of their farmland by government officials and developers with little or no compensation.

The legislation effectively grants private property the same status as state-owned property.

David Kelly is an expert on Chinese politics and ideology at the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore. He says passing this law is a matter of China's communist leaders responding to the protests.

"They are potentially a threat to the political order. But this is a political order which attends to its own survival, and they're not asleep at the wheel," he said. "They will introduce flexible measures, they will now move to some kind of policies which have not been part of the framework in the past."

Although the legislation seeks to protect some ownership rights, it stops short of privatizing collectively owned rural land. A text of the law released Thursday says the state remains the "leading force" in the ownership of property.

China's parliament is largely symbolic and usually adopts measures already approved by the upper leadership of the Communist party. Delegates are expected to formally pass the private property law when the two-week parliament session ends on March 16.

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