Update: Local Government in Yunnan Offers to Return Half of Disputed Forest Land After Christian Lawyer & ChinaAid Become Involved in the Case

Saturday, March 24, 2012

China Aid Association
(Pu’er, Yunnan—March 24, 2012) After a Christian lawyer intervened and ChinaAid reported on a case in southwestern China in which mountain forests belonging to a minority group had been appropriated by the state, local officials offered to return half the acreage.

The offer was rejected, however, by the residents of the hamlet of Kexi, part of Bingman village, in the town of Mengnong, which is part of the Mojiang Hani Autonomous County, in Pu’er city, Yunnan province. Kexi had been granted 9199 mu (about 1515 acres) of the mountain forests in a 1982 document issued by the county: No. 2177 “Mountain Forest Ownership Certificate.” For 25 years, the land was managed by the Kexi Small Group. The villagers are mostly Lahu minority people who still live without electricity and running water.
In early 2007, the villagers were surprised to find that the county lumber company had crossed the boundaries demarcated in the 1982 document and was operating on their land. When they appealed in April 17, 2007 to the Mengnong township government, they were told that in 1992 the Forestry Reform Task Group has ruled that 4000 mu (659 acres) of the Kexi land overlapped with state-owned land, and the 4000 mu of land had thus become state-owned land. No notification of any kind was ever given to the Kexi Small Group informing them of this change of ownership.

For five years, the Kexi villagers repeatedly appealed to the township government and the county forestry bureau and sought redress from the county government and the county people’s congress, all to no avail. See ChinaAid’s previous report for more details: http://www.chinaaid.org/2012/03/mountain-forest-ownership-violation.html

In February, villagers hired a Christian lawyer to protect their rights according to the law.

On Feb. 25, lawyer Liu Peifu, of the Beijing Gongxin Law Firm, flew from Nanjing, in coastal Jiangsu province, to the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming, where he met up with Pastor Zhang Mingxuan (aka Pastor Bike). At 5:30 p.m., they boarded a long-distance bus for the 4-1/2-hour journey to Mojiang county. On Feb. 26, lawyer Liu and Pastor Zhang and others traveled by van to the hamlet for an on-site survey of the disputed forest land. They listened to villagers’ account of the situation and gained a comprehensive understanding of the case.

On Feb. 27, lawyer Liu and the head and deputy head of the Kexi Small Group, Tian Youfu and Zhang Jinxiong, went to the Mojiang Forestry Bureau to request that it abide by the law and issue a new ownership certificate to the Kexi villagers. The deputy bureau chief received them and told them that because the land was under dispute, a new certificate could not be issued until the dispute had been settled. He was asked why there was still no decision on the dispute nearly five years after the villagers had first submitted their appeal in 2007. The deputy bureau chief’s answer was that the investigation was still ongoing, adding that the 4000 mu of forest claimed by the villagers had long since been designated as state-owned.

At the lawyer’s request, the forestry bureau made a copy of the 1992 decision for the villagers.

According to the lawyer, the 1992 forestry bureau decision constituted an infringement of the villagers’ rights because it was made without the villagers’ consent. Furthermore, the lack of a decision five years after the villagers submitted their appeal already constitutes administrative nonfeasance. Therefore, Liu and the two leaders of the Kexi Small Group then went to the standing committee of the Mojiang county people’s congress and submitted a “Petition to Fulfill Statutory Obligations,” requesting that the standing committee monitor and supervise the forestry bureau and the county government to make a ruling on the case.

On Feb. 28, on Liu’s advice, the villagers submitted to the county public security bureau a “Request [for Permission] to March for the Resolution of a Specific Issue” and mailed to the Pu’er city government and the people’s congress a “Petition to Fulfill Required Statutory Obligations.” Liu then left Mojiang, headed for Kunming. A Chinese-language report by ChinaAid was posted on the Internet on Feb. 28.

The next day, Feb. 29, officials from the county government and the forestry bureau came to Kexi to negotiate with the villagers, offering to give them half of the forest land that the state had appropriated. The villagers refused, demanding the return of all their land. Failing to achieve a compromise, the government representatives said that a ruling would quickly be made. If the villagers do not agree, their lawyer will make an administrative appeal according to the law to the Pu’er people’s government or file an administrative lawsuit in the Mojiang county people’s court.

ChinaAid will continue to monitor and report on the developments in this case.

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org
Website: www.chinaaid.org