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China issues draft of property registration rules

BEIJING -- China on Friday published a draft of long-awaited property registration rules, a move expected to stabilise the real-estate market and help crack down on corruption.

Real estate taxes based on a national registration system of property ownership are regarded as an effective way to curb speculation, as the government seeks to rein in years of surging house prices — a source of resentment for ordinary Chinese.

The system is also expected to act as an anti-corruption tool by preventing officials from hiding their assets.

Ideas about the scheme emerged in 2007 when a landmark property law took effect but the specific rules have been long in the making and their announcement was delayed due to their sensitivity and complexity, Chinese media have reported.

China's Legislative Affairs Office, a department within the country's cabinet or State Council, published the draft regulations on Friday, stating that a national property registration system will be established.

Relevant information — such as the location, area and origin of ownership — will be shared among government departments including police, taxation and audit authorities "in real time", according to the draft regulations.

"State authorities may look up and photocopy property registration documents relevant to their investigation according to the law," they said.

Properties including land, houses and forests are all subject to the registration, they added.

Public opinion on the draft is to be solicited until September 15, according to the Legislative Affairs Office.

Public outrage is intense over high home prices in a real estate market that critics say is rife with abuse by corrupt government officials, some of whom have sought to hide wealth by illegally amassing dozens of homes under false identities.

In one high-profile case last year, Gong Aiai, vice president of a bank in the northern province of Shaanxi and a delegate to the local legislature, was sentenced to three years in prison after she was found to have purchased more than 40 properties under multiple identities.

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