This is a follow up on my previous posts with regards to “China’s most incredible holdout”, where a housing dispute led to the developer digging a moat around someone’s house who refused to move. This post is the translation of an interview with the owner of this “nailhouse” on an island, 40 year old Mrs. Wuping.
According to the interview, all Mrs. Wuping wanted was a space of comparable footage in the new building but the developer just wanted to give her a small sum of money. The local press was also forbidden to report on the story and the developer worked with the local government and courts to coerce Mrs. Wuping.
In this long interview you get an inside look into the local politics of relocation and the kind of difficulties people face if they chose to fight the developer.
You can also watch a CCTV legal society TV program which includes interviews with the developer and Mrs. Wuping and a number of Chongqing residents. Link to video HERE.
On March 21st China.net reported that “China’s Most Incredible Holdout” which caused a huge stir on the Internet will soon disappear. Yesterday Chongqing Jiulong Hill District court held a hearing and ruled that the owner of the property (the holdout) has until the 22nd to tear down the building. Chongqing Court decides “Histories most incredible holdout” must relocate in three days became one of today’s hot topics on web forums throughout china. The following is the transcript of a telephone interview with the household’s owner, Mrs. Wuping
Facing the notification: I don’t have the power to appeal
Host: We saw the Chongqing courts decision on the Internet, can you explain to us in simple terms what the situation is?
Wuping: Among the residents moving, I am the largest private property owner, furthermore you can basically say I am the only one who has complete papers, such as a property rights land right certificates, they both clearly indicated that it is a building zoned for business. At that time I had just finished renovations, and they (the developer) said they had to tear everything down and people had to be relocated, as a result this was really damaging for us. According to my property right certificate, I am clearly in ownership of 219 square meters, so for this use it should be returned to me.
On September 14th of 2006 the developer delivered a resettlement proposal that was specially directed to me, agreed to relocation within the scope of the project, but when you give it back to me you have agree upon specifics, just like housing there (should be) are allot of clauses, but they didn’t have of these conditions. Under my demands, on March 2nd they gave me a written “Special Explanation” saying that our agreement was all along unable to be officially stamped or signed. So the problem and who’s responsibility this is are all very clear. To avoid a debacle I continuously negotiatiate with them according to my relocation proposal and theirs. In the end they just kept putting things off and never gave me a legitimate demolition and relocation permit, and never officially stamped anything.
House owner Wuping says she isn’t a holdout, just someone demanding property relocation.
We pretty much know approximately what your situation is now; we would like to know what the notice the court gave you entails?
Wuping: yesterday they gave us the notification
Host: Before the notice was sent out you hadn’t reached an agreement, what do you think the main problems were?
Wuping: The special written account that the developer issued.
Host: It wasn’t according to your demands?
Wuping: It wasn’t my demand, its a stipulated demand, the same as you are buying a house, if the developer doesn’t give you a official seal, do you think its still valid? Its just one of the relocated tenants wasn’t able to stamp and sign the notice.
I can read aloud the full text
Account: Occupant relocated
One of the occupant’s relocated, legal representative XXX, not in Chongqing for a long period of time, thus was continuously unable to sign and stamp the resettlement agreement. This above situation was verified, special explanation.
At the same time they also put two other companies seals on the notice.
Host: so the resettlement agreement couldn’t be stamped and agreed upon?
Wuping: yes, yesterday’s hearing was my appeal hearing, when I was talking things over with the developer, at the same time they made a ruling with the housing administration, I was unaware of this. Additionally, they went to the Jiulong Hill court and applied for a forced eviction, I also didn’t know of this. Because we were always trying to work things out, trying to find their boss to stamp and sign the agreement. Therefore I applied for a hearing, at yesterday’s hearing, facing more than 100 people, I presented strong and justifiable evidence that the other party had put their official seal on our agreement. But the court was just doing its formalities, after an hour they declared court adjourned and gave me another notice which had been printed out a few days ago, the hearing was absolutely just a formality, afterwards they directly gave me a notice, and yet it wasn’t a ruling because if it was a ruling I would still have the right or appeal, but I don’t have that right with a notice, and they only gave me three days.
Facing rumors: What I want is a building, I’ve never wanted money.
Host: In the report it said that there were rumors that the developer wanted to give you 20 million RMB and an apartment.
Who said that? If it were like this there wouldn’t be any problems.
Host: There’s also the problem of 4 million or 2 million rmb, wasn’t there a disagreement over the price?
Wuping: no, I have evidence, all of it is written, according to the regulated management stipulations we have two options, one is monetary and the other is to be given property at the old location. At that time our compensation was really really low, most of us shop owners chose to have our property returned. But the developer wasn’t willing, he only willing to give us some really remote rundown 4-5 story building far away.
Host: and cash?
Wuping: we didn’t select a cash option; we didn’t even talk about it. If we decide upon the monetary option we would be able to talk about it, but what we opted for is property return.
Host: On the Internet it said you (and the other owners) wanted 4 million RMB, and they gave you 2 million RMB, so this isn’t true?
Wuping: It’s not like this at all, that is what they made up, putting words in my mouth. These are our careers, what our families decided upon, and money doesn’t mean anything to us, up until yesterday I was making this clear, I don’t’ want anymore money, I want to be given property back of the same value, this is our choice. I said to them again and again, I hope they can according to the rules and regulations respect the choices of the relocated tenants, it was the developer who said we must go with the monetary option, but we didn’t opt for money, whatever amount it is still has nothing to do with me. On the resettlement agreement the place was already decided upon, this was according to their idea, but they are still unable to affix a seal because its a resettlement agreement, a property return, if I didn’t have a stamp this agreement would useless, when the building is finished who will I go to for a return? So, they clearly violated the rules and regulations. Otherwise by that time our lawful rights and interests can’t be ensured, because we don’t have a stamp and signature.
Host: Are you still talking things over?
Wuping: There’s no room to talk things over, because they are using the 1999 administrative action law which states that in order to protect national and public interest they can sue, if they don’t take action according to the law irreparable loss would be created. The developer making a huge profit overnight, is that public or national interest? So there is a discrepancy here with the situation.
Host: After this was carried out did you receive some compensation?
Wuping: until present I haven’t received a single bit of monetary compensation or a resettlement. According to the pertinent regulations, at the minimum they have to give us temporary housing, and you’ve seen in the picture there aren’t any, we can’t even get up to the building. This absolutely is the government and businessmen working together; there is nothing we can do. Jiulong Hills is completely managed by the district party committee and government. At the hearing yesterday I cited several laws and regulations, all are explicit, the city cannot force people to leave their homes for demolition.
I am the area’s leading representative; I have to speak for the powerless community
Host: The surrounding occupants and your neighbors have all already moved out, some netizens have said that you stayed intentionally to look for trouble and wait for higher compensation.
Wuping: Its not like that, but I can understand the netizens, its’ impossible for them to know the real facts. We had previously moved out on October of last year, but the homes were all really small, at the most about 30 square meters, and it was still public housing. I am really grateful for the netizens close attention to this matter, but they don’t have the ability to know what is actually going on. At the time I still felt OK, what happened in the end is just like you see, I told them you must keep this storefront, they said it would be no problem.
Host: How many other households were there that had comparable size?
Wuping: I am the biggest, the others are maybe just 20 or 30 square meters, and they are just a few households, I the only one in this special situation. Government policy is calculated on square footage, we all know this reasoning. In accordance to property rights, all I want is to be given property with the same square footage, you give one building back for another one, do I still need to further explain this?
Host: It seems you are very familiar with these legal clauses.
Yes, maybe its because I represent the weak residents from this portion of the city who were relocated, I want to make the developer sympathize a little bit with them, make him a little bit more lenient. The residents are so pitiful, a few generations of people living in narrow and cramped apartments, but if you don’t understand the law then you can just go around speaking carelessly. So we gathered allot of information, at the hearing I cited a number of laws and regulations, which are currently enacted.
Host: Did you have a lawyer or some people help you?
Wuping: The lawyer’s intentions were very simple, he hoped that I would sue; do you know the difficulty a common person has to go through to sue? At the minimum maybe 3 to 5 years, or in most cases much longer. I think that if the developer would simply pull down these houses and move its occupants elsewhere according to law, and the related government agencies do the same, we wouldn’t have any problems. Today we want to build a “harmonious society,” you have to be unobtrusive, can’t do anything excessive, most common people make concessions to avoid trouble or compromise to avoid a debacle. I’ve examined my own conscience, I never expected this outcome.
If you say I am unruly and sly then I say its the developer and local government that is unruly and sly.
Host: some netizens say you are unruly and sly, how do you look at their evaluation?
Wuping: If they say I am unruly and sly then I saw its the developer and local government that is unruly and sly. The only people in China who say others are unruly people and loyal subjects are Japanese foreign devils. You cannot violate other people’s property, if its like this, then what is this property law for?
Host: I’ve seen on the Internet how this information has been spreading, they say you have a criminal or mafia background.
Wuping: Words spreading around and turning into this happens everywhere. Some people due to their own mentality or they themselves have come across some unfair treatment often times let themselves vent on these issues. This is really normal. If I had this type of background, do you think I would dig around the building like that? Cut off my electricity and power? I insist that the law is fair, its just when its carried out it deviates from all original intentions. So I hope for the day the legal system gives justice back to me, we have endured more economic loss than most people can bear, this long of economic torture, and now there’s the developers malicious eviction, it’s really hard.
They didn’t allow the media to interview me; I hope they follow the story.
Host: Whats the next step you are going to take?
Wuping: next I plan to use the media, because some of the media have gotten in touch with me, they also feel very helpless as they aren’t allowed to record, take pictures or even enter the construction site. I say what the hell? What’s the problem with inviting other people to come over? Actually I didn’t even invite them, they came from afar because they follow closely legal matters, and the problems I have been having.
Host: The housing administration says there isn’t anything to argue about, the newspapers have already reported this matter very Cleary.
Wuping: which newspaper was it?
Host: It was the local Chongqing Times etc
Wuping: Of course the local papers are going to publish like that
Host: Furthermore they interviewed freely.
Wuping! No, yesterday they didn’t allow them to speak with me. They were all brought to the housing administrations office, and section chief Liu spoke with them. Once the hearing was over, section-chief Liu and the developer were outside the court waiting, and put all the reporters in a car.
Host: they didn’t allow you to be interviewed?
Wuping: No they weren’t, there were allot of judicial police, including men and women. It was just I sitting on one side and the developer and the housing administration on the other, anyhow there were allot of people on that side. And then there were three presiding judges and a collegiate panel of judges. In front of us sat allot of reporters and other people who weren’t allowed to videotape, record audio, use a cell phone or speak with me.
Host: Maybe the courts have rules. After you got out of the court they didn’t allow you to come into contact with the reporters?
Wuping: No, I just saw a big vehicle, it could sit maybe 20 or so people which took all of the reporters away.
Host: The documents they gave you didn’t have any official seals?
Wuping: yes, they just gave me a few minutes to quickly look over the documents. The judge asked me and I said they were all forged. It was all just a formality; the notice that they gave me was probably printed out a few days ago.
Host: This all came out a while ago, was there any reportage at that time?
Wuping: Every Chonqging media outlet had internal regulations, without exception they weren’t allowed to report this, if you don’t believe this then you could ask those Chonqging media outlets and reporters.
Host: The developer wasn’t willing to give you space in the new building?
Wuping: No, they weren’t, they just wanted to give me some money. When the price appraisal came out it was only 2 million RMB, I definitely couldn’t accept this, furthermore I chose property return and I have to repay the developer 2 million RMB.
Host: You have to repay the developer?
Wuping: Yes, according to their price I have to repay them, do you think I can accept that? I really have been treated unjustly, it’s unbelievable. If you are interested just look at Chongqing, I’ll provide you with evidence. The developer’s price was way too low, buying and selling under coercion. The Housing Administration in the end has to accept that my demands are legitimate. I said Chonqging city has regulations, I have the right to opt for housing return, and they should respect our decisions. Afterwards they weren’t willing. There’s nothing I can do, it was dragged out until last year when they said they could give me property in the new building but I would have to pay them 2 Million RMB. I said they have no right to do that! You’ve given me so little and you still want me to pay you that much! So this problem has been on continuous deadlock. So then there was nothing they could do either, what I said was all according to law, and what they said wasn’t. On September of last year I said if you want to negotiate with me you have to do this officially, you can’t just keep sending retired officials to talk things over with me but they said I was just a temporary worker, what I said didn’t matter, they could send someone out to just shine shoes, I don’t care. Last year there was an attorney named Wang Weir who begun negotiating with me. I just stuck with my rational demand, just give me the square footage stipulated on the property certificate which says 219 SM, so just give me 219 SM, after you agree I’ll sign the official agreement. Afterwards he told me again that they couldn’t agree upon this, said that they couldn’t get a hold of one of the occupants and for a long time hadn’t lived in Chongqing. Is this kind of agreement valid? No way! How is this my responsibility? In the end they used the courts to threaten me! So I said you quickly go find the occupant, they will certainly want a stamp or else whom will I be able to find when this is all over? Because this project can be changed whenever, a construction site changes contractors all the time, and so do the people responsible, if there isn’t an official seal who am I going to find?
Host: That year when you brought your property right certificate to the Housing Management office to handle the formalities, you weren’t the first person to do so, do you remember that day?
Wuping: August 31st 2004. It’s been dragged out till today; they haven’t given me one square footage of interim housing or any monetary compensation.
I opened a restaurant, people call me sister aqing
Host: On the Internet it said you do business, and you do really well.
Wuping: This building is mine; in the beginning of the 80′s I did business.
Host: What kind of business?
Wuping: I opened a restaurant because that street was Restaurant Street. I am good at dealing with things, I’m a good person, other people call me sister Ahqing. I am really polite with people; I know what amiability begets riches means.
Host: Do you still do business?
Wuping: no and its because of the housing dispute, its made me exhausted and broken my sprits, how can I continue doing business? For the past two years my parents in law have been angry as hell, in the past it was their property.
Host: did your parents in law give this to you as a wedding gift?
Host: Has your husband been upset by all this?
Wuping: How can you not be upset? Originally he was really good in public, and I would comfort him, we both comfort each other. We have said we both don’t want to rush, as long as we are right, one-day things will turn out right. We’ve already forgotten how many years it’s been. And they still are full of a pack of lies! This housing stuff has really had a big affect on me, almost every day the developer would notify me of something, if you are home when he comes around he won’t talk with honesty, say he isn’t prepared for this or that, he’s been dragging it on like this, he just wants to wear me down, wear me to death.
Host: Most of the netizens support you, but there are others who have different views.
Wuping: That is most certainly the malicious work of the developer, they hired some people to speak with us who even told us that we should persist, don’t be mad at us as we are only work for the boss, their little workers were good to us.
Host: Who is this young man?
Wuping: One of their company’s employees, the company’s structure is really complicated, half state-owned and semi-privately operated.
Host: These personnel under the leadership of the developer, they wanted to wear you down?
Wuping: at the lower level those department heads and section chiefs all said this is just to wear you down, it’s completely unfair. Once you look at them you can tell, this isn’t something a real person would do.
Host: Just like that they told you the actual situation; they wanted to wear you down?
Wuping: yes, most people wouldn’t be fit for this, but I relied on my convictions and determination. Some of people who were moved have already died, some from disease but others from anger.
Host: How many households have to be relocated?
Wuping: The developer said 218 households, but I think its more than that, in actuality I don’t think anyone knows because they used the property right certificates to count, they didn’t count on the basis of dwellers. There are probably more than a thousand households. My certificate has 8 households under it, but we know that the policy is based on the square footage allotted under the certificate, not on the number of households. So if you say then for one certificate there is one household then yea, there are 218 households. But if you actually count the number of registered households there, then there are probably more than 1,000. Some of them are no more than 10 or so square meters.
Host: If it involved that many people, were there others like you who refused to move?
Wuping: It all finished up last year, in the end, that street had some problems like arson and robbery, all of which they did.
Host: Which Street is that?
Wuping: hexing Street, it’s the center of our pedestrian street, under the light rail station.
Host: How old are you?
Wuping: About 40 years old.
Host: You don’t do business anymore; you just spend all of your time dealing with this stuff?
How could I still be in the vein to do work? If this was you, do you think you could still work? Everyday you lose all desire for food and drink. Yesterday at the hearing, I said you absolutely have to win or lose with sincerity, but it just isn’t like that.