Beijing - The government can only ask Beijing residents, whose houses are designated to be demolished, to move out after paying them satisfactory compensation, according to a notice issued on Saturday by the Beijing municipal government.
The notice is a guide on how the Beijing government will implement a new regulation on urban home demolitions that was approved by the State Council in January. The regulation is designed to better protect homeowners' rights and to end forced relocations by governments.
The previous regulation, now abolished, authorized the government to enforce relocations without asking for court rulings, which led to some people who disagreed about the amount of compensation being forced to move out. Some had to move out before they received any payment.
Chen Zhi, deputy secretary-general of Beijing Real Estate Association, said its research showed that many construction enterprises used to cheat residents by promising them good compensation but refusing to pay after they had moved out.
"By stipulating strict procedures, this decision by the Beijing government will guarantee homeowners' rights," he said.
The guide also stipulates that only the government has the right to discuss compensation deals with residents and finally confiscate their houses, a process in which construction enterprises and real estate companies have no right to participate.
The Beijing government must discuss compensation with residents and together they must choose a real estate evaluation institute to estimate the worth of their property, which, according to the regulation, should not be below market price. If no agreement can be achieved, the government will pick an institute through a lottery.
"I see this as an improvement as it lets residents have a say in choosing institutes, and a qualified institute is crucial to making a fair property evaluation," said Wang Xixin, a law professor at Peking University.
"However, transparency during that process, including the lottery, is very important to ensure it is not just a show case."
After a compensation plan is made, residents will be given a 30-day notice, during which they have the right to suggest revisions to the plan. Those who disagree with a final plan can ask for an administrative re-ruling or sue.
The court has the right to force a relocation if a resident who disagrees with the compensation refuses to move and doesn't ask for a re-ruling or file a lawsuit.
Housing demolitions have aroused heated discussion in China, especially since the revision of the previous demolition regulation at the end of 2009, after five law professors wrote an open letter to the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, urging reform.
A series of shocking tragedies in which people killed themselves during forced relocations had captivated public attention.
One person died and another two were injured when three members of a family surnamed Zhong doused themselves in gasoline and set themselves ablaze to protest against a forced demolition in Yihuang, Jiangxi province, on Sept 10, 2010.
Tang Fuzhen, 47, a resident of Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, died in 2009 after setting herself on fire to protest against the forced demolition of her house.