WANG CAILIANG The onus to stop developers in their ugly design rests upon local governments and the judiciary. Demolitions became a common phenomenon as urbanisation intensified across the world. But this phenomenon is different in China, where forced demolitions are suggestive of the violation of basic civil rights. Such acts have been widely criticised by the public and the media. In his report to the National Peoples Congress (NPC) on August 24, 2007, the then Minister of Construction said that the Urban Housing Demolition Management Regulation was contrary to the newly passed Property Rights Law and, hence, should be repealed. Four days later, the NPC Standing Committee accepted that the then existing demolition regulations were contrary to law and even the Constitution. That in a way marked the beginning of the post-demolition era in China. In the three years since the Property Rights Law was promulgated, four distinct characteristics have emerged. First, the debate on whether forcible demolitions violate the law. Today, all conscientious people agree that forced demolition is contrary to law, for it abuses public power and violates civil rights, and is thus against the principles of building a harmonious society. Second, forced demolition has not totally stopped. They have been seen across the country. Economic development is only an excuse for such acts. Local officials are prompted to order or help demolitions because they get them money. Third, some local governments have actually taken active part in demolitions. The media have reported the enthusiasm with which some local officials have led demolitions. And last but not least, the end of forcible demolition is still not within sight, and societys conscience is being challenged by too many tragedies, including deaths. True, many high-rises have come up in the past few years, contrary to the wishes of the common people. If the authorities want to see the political ideal of a harmonious society fructify then they have to stop such demolitions immediately. The most important step in this regard would be to eliminate the negative aspects of the 1991 and 2001 regulations on demolitions. But no new regulation has been drafted even two and half years after the NPC authorised the State Council to do so. This reflects the difficulty of striking the right balance among different interests. Revising or repealing the demolition regulations only would be far from enough, because the tragedies of the past two years are related with the collective-ownership of land. The real estate sector and related governing regimes, too, should be reformed to achieve harmony between power and rights at the legislative level, for which three measures should be taken immediately. First, the existing urban demolition and management regulations should be repealed and a new law enacted. Second, political reform has to be intensified. There will be fewer forcible demolitions if people are granted more power in nominating and supervising government officials. Third, financial reform has to be deepened and the knot binding local governments interests with land business has to be untied. Of course, good laws also need good executive measures to be effective. To build a harmonious society, people should respect the laws as the behavioural norms of the entire society. But on many occasions the judicial system has lost its stature as the last channel through which people seek social justice. When policemen appear at a demolition site, not as protectors of civil rights but to help demolishers, they trample upon social justice. How can we ask ordinary citizens to respect the law, while law enforcers violate their rights? Being good has always been an essential virtue of civilisations. This essential virtue is needed to build a harmonious society, too. Once law enforcers become essentially good, disputes and violence over demolitions would become things of the past. After all, a harmonious society has to be a society without forcible demolitions. China Daily