As China‘s economy swells and grinds, there are many little folk trodden under cloven hoof in it’s wake. People are forced to move from houses that they have owned for generations, just to allow for the progress of capitalism. They are offered little more than a paper handshake as a reward, houses they’ve loved, replaced with shopping malls of doom and the offices of Satan. Consequently, some residents are sticking to their guns hard and refusing to budge, even under the ensuing duress that is heaved upon them. These people are brave, and stubborn as fvck. I salute you.
One of these so called ‘nail houses‘ in Wenling, Zhejiang province has been global news this week and the photos have gone viral. This five story house has managed to remain preserved, alone in the middle of a brand new motorway. The house belongs to two families and the government has offered them less than half of the property’s value to smash it down. Just a few years ago this building was nestled among the abodes of 1,600 people, but now it is a lone pirate in a sea of asphalt. Good on you.
One of the occupants, Luo Baogen, built the house himself and is in no rush to give it up. They are considering opening some form of motorway, drive through shop from their ground floor. I am going to go to China solely to visit that shop. I will buy a newspaper, some flavoured milk (probably strawberry), some Rizla and a map. Then I would high five the fvck out of all of those guys and be on my way.
Before the 90’s the government of China could pretty much take anything they wanted, whenever they wanted. This has chilled out a bit now and there are some property laws in place, but with China’s full speed ahead attitude to cash and industry, you wouldn’t want to be the little guy facing down the steam rollers.
Another family of hardcore ground standers found their property in the centre of a new six-story shopping mall. They refused to bugger off for two years, their family had lived in the house for three generations. You’d be miffed (I once rented a flat for 6 months, then the estate agent buggered off with our rent to Spain so we had to move out. That made me cross enough; the fat, leathery slug of a man). Developers cut their power and water, and dug a huge pit around the whole of the building.
The owners were having none of it and broke back in to the construction site and reoccupied, placing a Chinese flag defiantly on the roof. Yang Wu, a local martial arts champion, used nunchakus to make a staircase to their house fort (not sure how that worked?) and threatened to smash up any authorities who attempted to evict him. The owners turned down an offer of 3.5 million yuan (US$453,000), but eventually settled with the developers in 2007. Fair enough. It does look like it would be hard to just nip to the shops doesn’t it.
In another example, a “nail house” remained in Changsha, even after a shopping mall was built around it, it now sits proud in a courtyard of the mall. The resident initially held out for months following an eviction order, and was subject to harassment and extortion attempts even after he reached a settlement.
This sort of big business vs the little guy thing isn’t just Chinese of course, there are Western property battles too. In Whitechapel, in the East End of London, the construction of the department store called Wickhams in 1927 was obstructed by the Spiegelhalter brothers who had owned and run a jewelers on the site for years. The store building had to be completed around the jewellers shop when the stubborn duo would not budge. Sort of ruins the majesty of those columns doesn’t it?
Another fresh contemporary example is courtesy of Edith Macefield, who simply would not sell her Seattle house to a developer. Good on ya Edith. Nice Balloons.
So the moral of the story is: If you fight as hard as you can, you might win, but your house will have shit views.