Transcribed and Translated by SMHRIC
New York City
click here for the original video
dispute between villagers and the Banner Government over the
renting of farmlands has continued for several years in
Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa, Bayan-Ulaan Sum, Zalaid Banner, Hingaan
League of eastern Inner Mongolia. This spring, villagers again
tried to ask for an explanation from the Banner Government. The
main concern is why the Banner Government took over the Sum’s
grazing land and rented it to outsiders for cultivation? In
Zalaid Banner Bayan-Ulaan Sum’s hospital, we met with He-Hada,
He-Jinggang, Sun Quangang and Chen Long, four ethnic Mongolian
farmers from Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa’s Yao-Ulaan Village. They were
receiving intravenous fluid therapy. Last May, they were charged
with the crime of “sabotaging production and management” and
sentenced to 1 year in jail by the Zalaid Banner People’s Court
for making a claim to their grazing land. They have been
released recently after completing their jail term. Sun Quangang
and Hada told us about the land dispute going on in Yao-Ulaan
Village last May.
Quangang: On May 7, 2003, about ten people in a couple of
vehicles appeared on the Agricultural Bank’s cultivated land
located to the west of our village and started plowing. All of
the villagers came to them and tried to stop them from
cultivating our grazing land.
Because this is Yao-Ulaan Village’s land! We didn’t agree (with
the government) to rent this land to outsiders.
Quangang: On May 14, at midnight to 3:00 am, 15 police vehicles
came to our village. I was the first to be arrested. We did not
know they were the police.
75 households with a population of 4,000, Yao-Ulaan Village is
one of the five villages in Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa. According to
villagers, as a partially agricultural and partially grazing
land area, Yao-Ulaan Village originally had nearly 3,000 mu
(approximately 200 hectares) farmland and more than 10,000 mu
(approximately 667 hectares) grazing land . However, since 1996,
the collective’s grazing lands have continually been cultivated
by outsiders. May 2003, Zalaid Banner’s State Land Resource
Bureau and Bayan-Ulaan Sum People’s Government rented Yao-Ulaan
Village’s 3,000 mu (approximately 200 hectares land which was
formerly contracted by Zalaid Banner Agricultural Bank) to
several outsiders. Villagers disapproved and planted their own
crops to stop the outsiders’ planting. As a result, He-Hada and
others considered to be the leaders, were arrested. Zalaid
Banner People’s Court charged Hada and three others of the crime
of “sabotaging production and management” and sentenced them to
1 year in jail. The four have never regretted their actions
despite the 1-year jail sentence. They are worried about the
future of their village.
Quangang: We have lost our grazing lands. We are not worried
about our generation, we are worried about our future
generations. How they will make a living here?
country (China)’s grassland law has provisions to prohibit
grassland from being cultivated. However, why have the grazing
lands of Yao-Ulaan Village been continually cultivated since
1996? Our country (China)’s Land Management Act Provision No.15
clearly indicates that if individuals or units from outside of
the collective economic organization want to contract and manage
the farmers’ collective’s land, they must obtain an agreement
from at least two thirds of the village committee members or
village representatives and the approval from the Banner
Government. Did the local government obtain any agreements from
the village committee or village representatives when they
rented Yao-Ulaan Village’s 3,000 mu (approximately 200 hectares)
land to outsiders? With numerous doubts we came to Yao-Ulaan
Correspondent: Are you a village representative?
Representative 1: Yes, I am.
Correspondent: When contracting the village’s land to outsiders,
did they consult with the village representatives? Did the
villagers sign on the agreement?
Representative 1: No. They never consulted with us.
Representative 2: When contracting the land, the Gachaa
Government says seizing our land and selling it to outsiders are
protected by the law because outsiders will cultivate the land
scientifically. We must keep quiet even if it is unjust because
they threaten us with the law.
Villagers told us that Zalaid Banner Agricultural Bank came to
Yao-Ulaan Village in 1996 and cultivated 5,000 mu (approximately
335 hectares) of the collective’s grazing land. At that time,
villagers tried to stop them, but failed. The Agricultural Bank
released the 5,000 mu land after cultivating it for three years.
In 2003, Zalaid Banner State Land Resource Bureau and
Bayan-Ulaan Sum People’s Government again rented 3,000 mu of
this land to several outsiders. As a result, a land dispute
arose because the villagers did not agree. So, what is the
Bayan-Ulaan Sum People’s Government’s position on this after
renting the land to outsiders without the villagers’ agreement?
Correspondent: As an official who has grappled with the problem,
tell us what exactly happened during the 2003 land dispute?
Banner Bayan-Ulaan Sum Party Secretary Qin Feng-shan: This
should be state- owned land and the government has the right to
do whatever it wants with this land. However, a few people, not
that significant percentage of the people, have incited the mass
to grab the land and attempt to destroy it. Therefore, our
judicial department settled the problem in this manner.
Correspondent: Why are there state owned lands and collective
lands co-existing in an inconsistent manner within the same
collective unit such as our Sum or Gachaa?
Feng-shan: In regard to this issue, I arrived here in 1996, and
I am not aware of the actual situation of how the land was
divided. Anyway, when I came here, here was the state owned land
for investors from outside and there was the collective land for
the villagers to grow their crops. I don’t know how they
partitioned off these lands.
Secretary Qin Feng-shan says there was no need to consult with
the villagers when renting this 3,000 mu land which was once
cultivated by the Zalaid Banner Agricultural Bank to outsiders
in 2003 since it was state owned land. However, the villagers
insist that this definitely belongs to the collective’s grazing
lands. Both sides mentioned 1996. What event happened in 1996?
In order to get to the truth, we went to Zalaid Banner State
Land Resource Bureau.
Banner State Land Resource Bureau vice president Jia Yu-na: I
heard that that is state-owned land, and there should not be any
dispute. At that time, Zalaid Banner Government, in accordance
with the fact that our Banner was relatively rich in “cultivable
reserve wasteland” resource, adopted several policies that
encourage outsiders to invest money to make use of these
Correspondent: So, does it mean that all cultivated lands have
always been state-owned lands since that time to now?
Yes, cultivated are “cultivable wasteland” resources, in other
words, those were “cultivable reserve wasteland” resources.
Correspondent: Does it mean the land in dispute was not a
collective land resource at that time?
No, that was not a collective land.
Banner State Land Resource Bureau officials told us that
Yao-Ulaan Village’s 3,000 mu land that was abandoned after a
period of cultivation by the Agricultural Bank should belong to
state owned land, because in 1996 an investor who was not from
the Agricultural Bank cultivated the state owned “cultivable
reserve wasteland”. Since then, the so called “Zalaid Banner
Government Regulation of Year 1996, No.42 Document” has been set
into effect. The main purpose of this document is to encourage
investors from outside to open up the “cultivable reserve
wastelands” within the border of Zalaid Banner to grow crops and
plants. Investors are entitled to enjoy the benefits of a
preferential policy in which the investor will be exempted from
agricultural taxes for 2 of 3 years. Under the terms of this
policy, the so-called “cultivable wastelands” in not only
Yao-Ulaan Village but also many other places in Zalaid Banner
have been completely cultivated.
Correspondent: I am here now on the territory of Yao-Ulaan
Village, Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa, Bayan-Ulaan Sum, Zalaid Banner.
According to the village elders, here were their grassy grazing
lands all over the plains and mountains where grasses were as
high as these grasses in front of me now. Unfortunately, now
grasslands like this almost have disappeared everywhere and the
cultivated land behind me is no longer the collective’s grazing
land. It has already become a type of state owned land.
Neighboring Zuun Uul is also another village of the five in
Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa. Within the border of Zuun Uul Village only,
Zalaid Banner State Taxation Bureau has cultivated 7,000 mu
(approximately 470 hectares) in 1996 and an investor named Liu
Wen-fu contracted 1,000 mu. The same land dispute occurred in
Zuun-Uul Village in 2003 as well. Recently, another conflict
between villagers and contractors broke out in this village. The
main reason for these conflicts is that the contractors’
cultivated lands or so-called state owned lands have
aggressively expanded while the villagers’ grasslands have
Correspondent: Where are the newly cultivated lands?
Villagers 1: There, right there, this side of the whole
mountain. One-third was previously cultivated and two-thirds is
Correspondent: Was the newly cultivated land previously grazing
Villager 1: Yes, it had been grazing land, our Zuun-Uul’s
collective grazing land for 70 years.
Villager 2: Every year, outsiders come here to cultivate our
grasslands, and every spring and fall, they turn over the soil
with tractors. Look, they have turned over the land almost right
up to our door, right up to our village’s residential area. That
hilltop was a natural border, and there was no land cultivated
on the right side of the hill before. It is really hard for us
to make a living now.
Villager 3: In 1996, investors cultivated our land. We didn’t
agree to allow them to cultivate our land every year.
Zuun-Uul and Yao-Ulaan are Villages or “Small Brigades” of
Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa. It is hard for villagers to know how many mu
lands have already been cultivated in Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa. The
Banner State Land Resource Bureau and Sum Government say
Bayan-Ulaan Sum has only 20,000 mu (approximately 1,340
hectares) cultivated land. However, Xie Qi-jin, who had worked
as the Party Secretary of Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa for 30 years, says
in Bayan-Ulaan Gachaa alone, 50,000 mu (approximately 3,350
hectares) lands have been cultivated, and all these lands were
Qi-jin: This land (in dispute) belonged to the village’s grazing
lands at that time.
Correspondent: So, when did this land turn to the so-called
state owned land?
Qi-jin: State owned land came to exist in 1996 when the
government seized lands and turned them into state property.
now, the dispute over whether the 1996 cultivated land is
grassland or state owned “cultivable reserve wasteland”
continues in Zalaid Banner. During our live broadcast, we saw
the state owned lands and grazing lands are interwoven together
here. We really wanted to see what is “cultivable reserve
wasteland” and figure out how it differs from grassland. We know
that there are some terms such as farmland and wasteland etc. in
our country (China)’s land categorization. So which category
does this so-called “cultivable reserve wasteland” belong to?
Correspondent: What is the difference between the concepts of
grassland and “cultivable reserve wasteland”?
In accordance with our “cultivable reserve wasteland”
evaluation, there must be a basic requirement, and we conducted
many evaluations according to this requirement. As I said just
know we have many criteria. In terms of grasslands, these
management rights should belong to the Grassland Management
Correspondent: What is “cultivable reserve wasteland”?
Mongolian Autonomous Region State Land Resource Bureau Law &
Regulation Department assistant director Ji Jian-qing: I have
confirmed all relevant laws and regulations, and so far we don’t
have this concept yet. I don’t know what is this so-called
“cultivable reserve wasteland”.
Correspondent: So, is there a term called “wasteland”?
Jian-qiang: In our land management laws, it is called “useless
wasteland”. Useless wasteland or wasteland is useless or
uncultivable. It has no other use at all. Usually, wasteland and
its surrounding areas should have very little grasses or no
grasses at all.
Agricultural Academy Grassland Research Department assistant
director Yan Zhi-dian: This must be a distortion of the concept
because grassland is grassland. However, if they have already
cultivated or want to cultivate grassland, they will find tons
of reasons to justify their cultivation. Zalaid Banner grassland
is typical northwestern grassland and in the past it was
excellent grazing land.
Zhi-dian, a researcher at the Chinese Agricultural Academy
Grassland Research Department, had participated in conducting
the general survey of grasslands in Hingaan League’s Zalaid
Banner at that time. He also told us that recent successive
years’ severe droughts in Hingaan League are most likely a
consequence of the large scale of cultivations.
Zhi-dian: This kind of cultivation might bring some short term
benefit but ultimately, it will not only bring disaster to our
overall ecosystem but also cut off the life-line of our
generations to come.
representative 2: At that time, the grasslands were excellent
even if this place was partially agricultural and partially
grazing area. There was not much cultivated land around here,
and no 3 to 5 years’ severe droughts like today. Longest drought
at that time was a year or half.
According to Zalaid Banner State Land Resource Bureau, the
Banner has cultivated 98,000 mu (approximately 6,670 hectares)
in total of grasslands since 1996. The renters are required to
pay only 30 yuan (approximately 3.50 US dollars) per mu (0.067
hectare) per year. Thirty percent of this money becomes the
Banner Government income and seventy percent goes to the Sum
Government. Based on this calculation, Zalaid Banner Government
and Sum Governments that provided lands for cultivation have
earned at least 23 million yuan (approximately 3 million US
dollars) from land contract business. This means the governments
have made a considerable amount of money. However, the question
is, has the living standard of the local people also improved
Villager 4: Not a single penny is for the local people. All the
money went into government officials’ pockets.
Villager 5: That is true, local people’s life is really
Yao-Ulaan Village has 75 households, but now the whole village
has only less than 5,000 mu grazing land. Many households have
sold all of their livestock due to the lack of grazing lands.
The village’s only elementary school remains in disrepair since
its collapse 4 years ago because of the desperate poverty.
Twelve year old boy Bao-shun dropped out from school a long time
ago and now his family has only one cow. Bao-shun’s daily job is
to take care of his family’s only cow.
order to rent the grasslands for cultivation, the government has
made up the “cultivable wasteland” term, a term that does not
exist in land resource vocabulary. Under the guise of this term,
they have nearly turned over the entire soil of the virgin
grasslands in this Banner. Day after day, the cultivated land
has gradually been turning to desert. The fake wasteland now has
become real wasteland. The desert is expanding and drought is on
a rampage, and if one wants to recover the ecosystem it could
take at least two to three hundred years. The contractors and
the officials who contracted the land have already gone, but the
desert is left forever to the local people. It is extremely
distressing that similar cases are still happening in our region
(Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region)’s eastern grassland and
grassland cultivation is still out of control. The once
beautiful grasslands have already lost their beauty forever.