China to implement property registration rules next March: Report

A woman rides past rows of newly built apartments in Beijing on Nov 27, 2014. China will implement long-awaited property registration rules from March, in a move that could give the country's anti-corruption investigators extra ammunition and pave th
A woman rides past rows of newly built apartments in Beijing on Nov 27, 2014. China will implement long-awaited property registration rules from March, in a move that could give the country's anti-corruption investigators extra ammunition and pave the way for new taxes. -- PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - China will implement long-awaited property registration rules from March, a Chinese media outlet said on Tuesday, in a move that could give the country's anti-corruption investigators extra ammunition and pave the way for new taxes.

Under a draft of the regulations published in August, a national registration system will be established sharing information such as property location, area and origin of ownership among government departments including police, taxation and audit authorities "in real time".

The rules have been approved by the State Council, China's cabinet, and will take effect from March 1 "despite various hindrances", news portal thepaper.cn reported, citing unidentified sources.

The national registration system could potentially act as an anti-graft tool by preventing officials from hiding their assets. It could also pave the way for nationwide real estate taxes, which are regarded as an effective way to curb speculation, after the country saw years of surging house prices, creating widespread resentment among ordinary Chinese.

But at the same time prices for real estate - a key driver of the economy - have been falling for months, and authorities want to avoid a disorderly plunge in the market.

The scheme was included in a landmark property law in 2007, but Chinese media have said its specific rules have been long delayed due to their sensitivity and complexity.

The Ministry of Land and Resources, which is in charge of the registration, has said it aims to have the system operating by 2016.

Public outrage is intense over corrupt government officials who 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.