A villager provided the below copy of the contract to surrender property for development. Villagers say that if the government were to carry out each provision of this contract faithfully, they would gladly sign and give up their land. Villagers often frame their argument in terms of a problem of trust and accountability rather than a lack of compensation. Indeed the contract itself, in principle meant to safeguard the rights of each party, grants broad leeway to the Guangzhou Xiancun (or Xian Village) Industry Limited Corporation, the company owned by the village government and tasked with developing village property.
Article 7 grants the village corporation the unilateral right to adjust the resettlement scheme: “Owing to the complexity and difficulty of Xiancun’s overall renovation, governments at all levels have given close attention and great support. As the representative of all the residents’ legal interests and an organ to execute the specific affairs, [the village corporation], with the primary goal to achieve the whole interests of Xian Village Collective, has rights to adjust the resettlement scheme and arrange for specific work. “
Article 7 also states that if the signing villager creates any “disturbances” to the development project, such actions would constitute a breach of the agreement. Then, “…[the village corporation has rights to decide how to handle these matters (including that canceling all the welfares [the signing billager] enjoys in the renovation scheme as a Xian Village resident).” According to Article 7, not only can the village corporation unilaterally change the terms of the contract, a villager cannot protest the change for fear it be taken as a “disturbance,” in which case he or she could lose all benefits of the agreement. To bring legal suit against the village corporation may constitute a “disturbance.” The contract does not even specify a venue for such suits. Instead, Article 8 states that when matters arise not covered by the contract or other regulations, “…[the village corporation] is entitled to make a decision as the case may be.”
In conversations over many weeks, villagers cited government sanctioned incidences of intimidation, false arrests, and arson among other efforts to pressure villagers to sign away their land. Against this backdrop, mistrust seems natural. One villager said he knew not to sign after he read the introduction, whose last sentence begins, “By negotiating equally, legally and out of free will Party A and Party B….”
Please see below an English translation of the contract and pictures of the original. More postings will follow regarding the compensation outlined in the contract. Many thanks to the translator.