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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Moves Toward Property Reforms

BEIJING -- China's top legislator Sunday urged passage of a milestone law to protect private property, saying it was in tune with changes to Communist Party policy and China's evolving economic and social conditions.

The much-revised law on property rights has taken 14 years to arrive before the National People's Congress but is now "basically mature," Wu Bangguo, chairman of the legislature's standing committee, told lawmakers gathered for their annual session.

"The law on property rights is a basic law for standardizing property relationships and has a supporting role in the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics," Wu said.

The 40-page law with 247 articles is certain to pass the Communist-dominated congress when its annual session ends on March 16.

Members of the nearly 3,000-member congress have in the past registered their displeasure with the government's work, however, with up to 20 percent voting no. A relatively low "yes" vote for the law could introduce additional difficulties into what is already expected to be a difficult enforcement process.

The law is the most explicit attempt yet to legally protect personal wealth within China's communist system, where poorly defined property rights have been exploited by the rich and influential. Local officials have seized businesses, houses and farmland for lucrative real estate and commercial deals, often with little or no compensation, sometimes sparking violent public protests.

The measure is a stark ideological about-face for the ruling Communist Party of China, which barely one generation ago still preached egalitarianism and public ownership, and opposition from leftist conservatives has forced repeated revisions.

Wu said changes had been made to "reflect the basic socialist economic system as fully and accurately as possible."

Additional measures were also introduced to better improve protection for state-owned assets to prevent their further erosion, a nod to concerns that the law will accelerate a process of shifting state companies into the hands of their managers or local officials, often through sweetheart deals that ensure few protections for their workers.

The revisions also sought to safeguard the rights of rural residents and standardize routine practices, he said.