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Legal experts say a central government plan to open the mainland’s gated residential communities to the public will infringe on residents’ property rights.

A State Council directive said on Sunday that

gated communities and government compounds would be gradually made accessible to the public, and their roads opened to traffic.

No further gated communities would be built and all new developments would have to follow the public street grid system, it said.

The council said the move would improve traffic networks and make better use of land.

However, Xu Xin, a law professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said the policy was unreasonable and illegal. He said it was “a natural result of the long-term confusion between public and private domains, plus a lack of protection for private property”.

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“Gated communities that have already been built are private properties bought by owners. The right to use roads within the boundaries of these communities is shared by all owners and protected by the constitution and the law,” Xu said on Weibo. “They have no obligation to open to the public and the government has no right to intervene.”

Other legal experts cited the mainland’s property law, which states “roads within a building zone shall be jointly owned by all owners, with the exception of the public roads belonging to a city or township”.

The same applies to green areas, public spaces, public facilities, and houses or rooms used for property management purposes within a building zone.

“If the government compels the opening of these communities, it is an act of administrative imposition and property owners should be compensated,” said Zhang Xiaoyu, an associate law professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Residents in gated communities must pay for the roads, green spaces and other shared spaces within their communities. A portion of all such shared spaces, including lobbies and lifts, is calculated into the floor area of flats for purchase.

Large green areas and facilities such as gyms and swimming pools help raise the prices of property in such communities.

Details of how the policy will be implemented have not been released. But it has already generated a backlash.

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Seventy-six per cent of some 30,000 users polled by news portal Sina.com opposed the idea, and 87 per cent said they would demand compensation from the government if their gated communities were to be opened. Most respondents cited risks to their person and property as their chief concerns.

Many suggested government department compounds and gated communities for relatives of officials should be opened to the public first.

Gated communities are a product of the mainland’s commercial property development craze that took hold in the 1990s. Many urban middle class choose closed residential areas for the safety they provide.

Government departments, state-owned enterprises and military compounds, on the other hand, have been around since the 1950s, when compounds for employees and their families were built to provide not only employment but also fulfil a wide range of social, political and civil functions.

Some urban planning critics said many enclosed compounds in cities had disrupted traffic flows and did not make efficient use of land.

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