The Rule of Law – an Example

Considering the many cases where there were contradicting opinions about what this wording “the Rule of Law” means, I would like to share an example from the Chinese eastern coastal Province of Zhejiang which borders on Shanghai to the north.

"Danger, house ahead ..."

“Danger, house ahead …”

The – 上海日报 – reported on 23.11.2012, with the related picture, about a situation well known also in Cambodia: Some public infrastructure or commercial development plans are in conflict with residents of an affected area. So a process to find a solution between the two sides starts. In order to find a solution, both sides have to agree, according to the law.

This is what is happening in Taizhou: obviously there is some protection provided so that the owner of the old house can refuse to move, unless there is an agreement about a fair amount of compensation.

A car drives around an isolated house in the middle of an almost-completed expressway in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province – 浙江省台州市 – yesterday. The owner of the house, Luo Baogen, has refused to move to make way for the new road. Luo, 67, and his 65-year-old wife still live in the house to prevent it from being demolished after they rejected a compensation offer of Yuan 260,000 (US$41,718) plus two small building sites as far from enough to cover the several hundreds of thousands of Yuan they said they had spent in renovating the building. The couple are able to continue with their lives as they have an adequate supply of electricity and water. Their cable TV is also still functioning well. But they said would-be burglars were a problem because the house is no longer protected by outside walls.

I do not have any more information beyond this report, which obviously shows that the position of the owner of the house is strong and protected beyond the power of those who are responsible for planning and implementing the infrastructure by building this big road.

The only explanation which satisfied me I found in Wikipedia:

The politics of Zhejiang Province in the People’s Republic of China is structured in a dual party-government system like all other governing institutions in mainland China.
The Governor of Zhejiang is the highest-ranking official in the People’s Government of Zhejiang. However, in the province’s dual party-government governing system, the Governor has less power than the Zhejiang Communist Party of China Provincial Committee Secretary, colloquially termed the “Zhejiang CPC Party Chief”.

That means that there are two powers involved in important decisions: the Governor of Zhejiang is the highest-ranking in the government of Zhejiang, probably in charge of the infrastructure development. And there is the Zhejiang Communist Party of China Provincial Committee Secretary, watching over what the local government is doing.

This “dual party-government system” is clearly different from the threefold division of power as it is exercised in many other countries. But there is one important similarity: there is a clear separation between different independent powers. In many countries, the national assembly and the senate are making laws, the government is handling the administration of the country based on the implementation of the laws, and the judiciary, considering the Constitution, is watching over the institutions making new laws and regulations, and also over the government, to make sure that the Constitution is respected and not violated by new legislation not in conformity with the Constitution, and that any arbitrary administrative actions by the government, not clearly based on the Constitution, can be rectified.

Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia affirms the same position:

The Legislative, Executive, and the Judicial powers shall be separated.

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  1. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked
    submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say
    excellent blog!

  2. A follow-up to this posting.

    According to a report in The Guardian – there are also others – the 67 years okd owner of the house, Luo Baogen, who had formerly refused the compensation offered as being not sufficient. But by 30 November 2012 he had changed his mind and accepted the amount of Yuan Renminbi 260,000 [approx. US$41,500] – and by the next day, the demolition had been completed. The demolition process can be seen here.

    All this is interesting because first, the owner of the house was legally in a position to protect his rights while negotiating for an adequate compensation, and second, after pictures of this resistance spread around the world in the media, the five-story building became a symbol of protest against forced property demolitions.

    This case was not just a struggle between the individual owner of a house and larger private interests. Even as the owner of the house did not agree for a long time to give up his claims in the middle of a big highway constration – a public interest infrastructure – the authorities did not remove the house by force. This happened only after the owner had agreed with the compensation offered.

    Food for thought in other, similar situations.

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