Corrupt Chinese elites pillage working class landowners
Local Chinese government officials and real estate developers corruptly conspire to take land from peasants without just compensation.
In most countries around the world, a legal process known as eminent domain exists for taking private land for public purposes. Without eminent domain, we wouldn’t have roads or other forms of public infrastructure necessary to sustain society.
In the United States, and in most of the world, when a government body takes a piece of property through eminent domain, the person surrendering the property receives just compensation. If the parties fail to agree on what constitutes just compensation, they can petition the court to decide for them. In most instances, the courts render a fair and unbiased opinion of the value of real estate taken and award the owner just compensation.
The owners don’t have the right to refuse the court or hold out for a better offer. No landowners can block an eminent domain proceeding. The best they can hope for is reasonable compensation from the courts.
The key point is that the courts seek to establish a reasonable compensation amount for the property. Nobody is forced to give up their property and walk away with a tiny fraction of what that property is worth. While eminent domain is occasionally used for dubious purposes, the principal of just compensation always applies.
Unless you live in China.
In early May 2013, Jia Jinglong was preparing for his wedding day.
He wanted to have the ceremony at his family home in Hebei Province, not far from Beijing in northern China.
However, just prior to the big day, his house was knocked down to make way for a new development.
Adding to his woes, his fiancee then called off the wedding and he reportedly lost his job.
Jia Jinglong felt it was all too much. He sought revenge for the upheaval in his life following the destruction of his house without proper compensation.
Most people who contend eminent domain proceedings believe their properties are worth far more than the amounts offered. These claims generally don’t stand up to appraisals, but the lawsuit is often effective at getting the taking entity to increase their offer to avoid the cost and delay of a lawsuit.
Many people never emotionally accept the findings of appraisers or the court. They believe they were robbed despite evidence to the contrary — at least in the United States.
While we may have elected Donald Trump to “drain the swamp” and reclaim our government from the Washington elites, our elites don’t exercise the same level of corrupt control over the government and the courts that the elites enjoy in China.
In February 2015, he took a nail gun and went looking for the village chief, the man he decided was to blame. Then the groom-to-be-no-longer shot and killed the chief, 55-year-old He Jianhua.
For this he was sentenced to death.
… word has come through from an official social media account run by the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court: Jia Jinglong has been executed.
Some outside China will be wondering why the general public and Chinese media might have felt the need to campaign for somebody who admitted to murdering his local Communist Party secretary.
Well it all comes down to class and injustice in modern China.
These types of forced demolitions are routine here. It would be hard to argue against the premise that for years this country’s central government has turned a blind eye while property developers, in league with corrupt local officials, have bulldozed people’s houses, using paid thugs to beat up villagers if they try to resist.
The corruption is deeply embedded in the Chinese system.
First, local governments in China rely heavily on revenues generated from real estate developers. Without this revenue, most local governments would be insolvent, and the system of largess would stop flowing. No local government will permit that to happen, so party officials won’t let abstract concepts like justice prevent them from taking action.
Second, real estate developers earn immense profits from their activity, so they can continue to fund the lifestyles of the corrupt government officials that support them. Real estate development carries an implied government guarantee of success. Any failure would stop the flow of money to local governments, so even poor developments are subsidized by a compliant central government.
Taken together, these powerful forces will do whatever is necessary to prevent the “little people” from hindering progress. The powers-that-be consider notions of just compensation and rule of law a nuisance, and they act accordingly.
It is a way of clearing out pesky residents which continues to this day.
The “compensation” paid is usually nowhere near enough to buy an apartment in the same area, forcing evicted families to move to distant, low-grade housing estates.
This is the core of the problem. If China had an unbiased and functioning court system concerned with justice, the landowning nuisances would be paid fair market value for their properties, enabling them to move on with their lives. Instead, the value of the real estate falls to the corrupt developers and corrupt local officials who perpetuate the corrupt system.
How can I say this so confidently? Because I’ve seen it first hand time and again. I’ve seen the houses being destroyed, I’ve seen the crying families and I’ve seen the men sent in to silence them.
Ask pretty much any China correspondent and they will tell you the same thing.
This story is just an anecdote. It could all be lies. But if it weren’t true, if there weren’t an underlying injustice behind these activities, would anyone care about Jia Jinglong?
In many ways, China is like 19th century America dealing with the growing pains of capitalism. We had a case in the 1840s in Pennsylvania where a coal mining company was undercutting homes in a residential neighborhood and causing them to collapse into the ground. The US Supreme Court ruled that this was the price of progress and the homeowners were owed nothing from the mining company that destroyed their property.
What China is doing today is similar to what we did 170 years ago. Hopefully, it won’t take them another 170 years to see the error of their ways.