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China steps up protection of property rights

Apartments are pictured from a plane on the outskirts of Beijing January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will increase protection for property rights, including stepping up oversight of the management of state-owned assets, the Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, citing guidelines issued by the State Council, China’s cabinet.

New rules and policies are designed to “increase people’s confidence in the safety of assets, improve social trust, create positive expectations, and promote the drive for innovation among all economic actors”, Xinhua said.

It said that the State Council guidelines were the first on property protection issued by the central government in China, where lax enforcement of property laws and unclear land ownership regulations have been a problem for decades.

The guidelines call for equal treatment under the law for all property holders, and for fair and clear laws when land or homes are requisitioned.

Limits on compensation for violating intellectual copyright laws should be increased, including allowing for punitive damages, the guidelines said.

Research should be conducted into a system to extend rights to residential property when the initial period granted expires, in order to foster expectations that property rights will be respected long term, according to the guidelines.

Most homes purchased in China only include rights to the use of the property for a certain number of years, and questions about future home ownership have started to crop up as some contracts near their expiration date.

The new guidelines, the details of which are left up to respective government departments, say state firms that implement mixed ownership should grant employees shares, subject to conditions at the company, with equal shareholder rights to large shareholders.

Reporting by Elias Glenn and Shen Yan; Editing by Andrew Bolton