Relocation deal ends Chongqing standoff

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2007, 12:00am

Villa in vast construction site is finally demolished

A Chongqing couple's battle to stop developers from razing their home ended yesterday, with the couple agreeing to be relocated and the two-storey villa knocked down.

Restaurateur Yang Wu , 51, who stood his ground in the brick building surrounded by a 10-metre-deep excavation for 11 days despite a court eviction order, walked out of his home at about 4pm. The national flag and a banner demanding protection for legitimate private property were also removed, Xinhua reported.

The developers started to demolish the villa at 7pm and it was flattened by 10.30pm, pictures circulating on the internet showed.

The couple had signed an agreement with the developer to be relocated to another of its commercial properties, the report said, citing an official at Chongqing's Jiulongpo District People's Court.

'The court has organised negotiations six times [during the standoff] ... the couple signed the agreement in the [yesterday] afternoon ... the developers will give a shop of the same size in Shapingba as compensation.'

Mr Yang and his wife, Wu Ping , 49, had been fighting off bulldozers in Chongqing since 2004, when they and 280 other households were asked to make way for redevelopment. The couple had repeatedly turned down cash compensation offers and insisted on being relocated.

Unlike many other property demolitions and land grabs, the fate of the couple's villa captured nationwide attention after pictures showing it perched like an island in a vast construction site surfaced on the internet early last month.

Their story soon developed into a national sensation as deputies met in Beijing during the annual session of the National People's Congress to discuss and pass a controversial law that stipulates private and collectively owned properties will be accorded the same protection as public property.

All eyes were on the couple, dubbed 'the coolest holdouts in history', when Mr Yang moved back into the building on March 22, the deadline of an eviction order.

For 11 days, Mr Yang lived on bread and water, pulled up to the building by rope. The building had been unoccupied for three years and its water and electricity supplies cut.

Meanwhile, his wife juggled calls from mainland and overseas reporters and gave routine press conferences at the construction site.

The couple soon won public sympathy and support, with Ms Wu saying: 'I am not only fighting for my own rights as a property owner, I am also fighting for other property owners like me in China.'

The media gave the story blanket coverage, with news reports, editorials and cartoons, and fed the national appetite with daily, sometimes hourly, updates about the standoff. It was portrayed as a major test of the new Property Law, even though it will not come to effect until October 1.

Ordinary citizens hailed the couple as folk heroes who had stood up for their own rights in a country where land seizure without the agreement of homeowners has become a norm.

Government officials, including Chongqing Mayor Wang Hongju and Tang Kai , director of the Ministry of Construction's urban planning division, earlier vowed to end the dispute legally, while insisting that unreasonable demands from the homeowners would not be met.