China passes new rural collective law to protect farmers' land rights

By Mei Mei Chu

BEIJING (Reuters) - China passed a law on Friday to better protect farmers' land rights and support the development of village collectives, aiming to bolster the country's ailing rural economy and achieve food security, state media reported.

While all farmland in China is state-owned, farmers have decades-long land lease rights that are exercised on their behalf by collectives, which have been criticised for not giving farmers a sufficient voice.

The new Rural Collective Economic Organisations Law, which will take effect on May 1, 2025, defines the role of rural collectives and will give farmers oversight of the collectives.

It aims to safeguard the rights of the collective and its members and encourages fiscal and taxation measures to strengthen the development of the rural collective economy, Xinhua reported.

Currently, villagers can in theory decide to apply to sell off or develop land. In practice, however, state officials usually decide. And hoping to win investment or other economic gains, they often override the wishes of farmers.

Farmers have argued that the current system gives state officials too much power to take land for little or no compensation. Land grabs have been a cause of social unrest in the past.

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)