How voluntary is poverty alleviation resettlement in China?

Tek Sheng Kevin LO*, Mark Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


Voluntary resettlement, typically framed by the principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), has emerged as a preferred alternative to the heavily criticized forced resettlement approach, but there are growing concerns over whether those “voluntary” programs are genuinely voluntary. In China, the government maintains that its poverty alleviation resettlement (PAR) program is a successful example of voluntary resettlement. Under this national anti-poverty initiative, millions of people living in the poorest parts of the country have been resettled “voluntarily”. However, few studies have critically examined this claim. In this study, we collected empirical evidence through a survey of PAR resettlers. Drawing on a large and representative household survey (1723 resettlers from 30 different PAR projects) and 142 qualitative interviews, we report inconclusive and conflicting findings. On the one hand, the respondents strongly expressed that they willingly participated in resettlement. The perception of willingness was especially high among those who were younger, wealthier, and had off-farm employment. Furthermore, the consent to relocate was mostly free and driven by a desire to improve the quality of life. On the other hand, we observed that consent was not fully informed due to inadequate consultation. The villagers were not given detailed information about the resettlement or time to consider the implications. To ensure genuinely voluntary resettlement and to enhance the effectiveness of the program in poverty alleviation, the government needs to improve the consultation process, offer more targeted assistance to poor households, and provide better post-resettlement support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-42
Number of pages9
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Urban Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Free and informed consent
  • Poverty alleviation resettlement
  • Voluntary resettlement
  • Willingness to resettle


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