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Oil and property rights clashing in China

China’s thirst for oil and problematic property rights have both been discussed here before. A recent New York Times article shows how these two issues have clashed as the domestic wells that were drilled by private investors have been “seized” by the government. The result: the largest suit the government has ever faced and lots of jailed investors and lawyers.

For those in China who urge a strong, transparent justice system, the prospectors' demand for better compensation or restitution of their wells goes to the heart of the question of what sort of society China is to become: one of full property rights and equal protection before the law, or one of arbitrary decisions imposed by fiat and without appeal… "If common people have to accept whatever unpredictable changes the government makes, then our litigation code may as well be abolished, because that would mean the public is not allowed to sue the government," said one person close to the case, who withheld his name to avoid arrest. "Why don't we just abolish the profession of law altogether?"

Some have a more optimistic view on the private sector’s future in China, believing that the private sector is making progress.