China military to investigate who owns its land

BEIJING - China's military has launched a three-year project to try to work out who owns the land it uses after finding that a quarter of it lacked ownership documents, which has led to disputes with civilians, the Defence Ministry said on Friday.

China's armed forces, the world's largest, have become a focus of President Xi Jinping's campaign to root out deeply-ingrained graft including bribery, which often takes the form of lavish gifts to officials or extravagant spending of government funds.

The military has warned repeatedly that buildings on its bases must be simple, cheap and unostentatious.

"Just like a citizen must have an identity card and a household registration documents, military land also needs its own 'proof of identity'," the ministry quoted an unidentified officer in charge of base and barracks building as saying.

With a quarter of land the military uses lacking such documentation, this has led to ownership disputes, the ministry added.

"This not only involves the legal use of land resources, but it also affects the harmonious relationship between the military and the government and the military and the people," it said.

These issues are "extremely sensitive", the ministry added.

The anti-graft drive in the military comes as Xi steps up efforts to modernise forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though China has not fought a war in decades.

China intensified its crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business. But the military has been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances, military analysts have said.