Residents battling rogue management firms learn martial arts to fend off paid thugs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2014, 12:26pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 October, 2014, 9:08pm

Residents in the satellite town of Yanjiao, Hebei province, have taken up the ancient Chinese martial art of wing chun to protect themselves from armed thugs hired by a rogue property management firm to intimidate them.

Located at the nexus of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei triangle, Yanjiao, a mere 35 kilometres from Tiananmen Square, is in something of an administrative “limbo zone”. Proximate to Beijing but under Hebei’s jurisdiction, its apparent status as a grey area has led to a lack in government oversight.

According to The Beijing News, several property management firms have taken advantage of this situation, charging extortionate fees, turning public space into parking spots and sending thugs to beat up and intimidate residents when they complained. 

“We were afraid [of the thugs], we didn’t have any experience in fighting back,” tenant Ren Yongmei told the newspaper.

Unprotected by authorities, residents came up with an innovative way of (literally) fighting back: by learning a 2,000-year-old martial art. In August, tenants enlisted local wing chun enthusiast Ma Lianhua to them how to defend themselves.

This plan did not go unnoticed by the property developers, and after Ma began teaching classes, he was viciously beaten by a number of armed thugs.

After the attack, Ma decided to enlist some expert help. A 60-year-old wing chun master surnamed Pang came down from Beijing accompanied by three disciples.

Pang’s lessons attracted hundreds of residents, and the thugs did not dare intervene.

When thugs confronted Ma again, and began beating him, the situation was very different. Residents surrounded them, and eventually police stepped in to arrest thug leader Rong Xuefeng, for his own safety.

After Rong was arrested, property managers and officials held a meeting during which the head of one company apologised to locals for their mistreatment and voiced his support for establishing an owners’ committee to lobby managers on behalf of residents.

“We’re not opposed to paying management fees, if they provide the appropriate services, we’ll pay the appropriate money,” Ma said, though he is still practicing wing chun, just in case.