The new property law has been much-discussed on the millions of homeowner forums across the country, and property rights consciousness is definitely spreading across the country, but it's not every city that has private interest-defending heroines like Chongqing‘s Wu Ping (the video linked to there has been deleted but this one shows Wu in action, and more here).
From the same city this past week, Chongqing residents eager to buy flats in the new Top Class Sixteen (上品十六) property had gathered on August 5 for the next step of flat selection. Two thousand VIP cards had been sold, as is often done in China, which at CNY 6,666 bought the holder the advance privilege of choosing which particular flat they would purchase. Only when flat selection day came, with several thousand potential future residents carrying the required down payment of CNY 10,000 in cash gathered in a gymnasium, it was announced that there were not enough flats to go around, and the crowd rioted.
Extensive discussion and accounts of the events leading up to and following the destruction of the developer's Sales Office and resulting clash with police can be found on several local Chongqing internet forums, however. Here's what one homeowner wrote:
The writer continues on with the story, of showing up at the gymnasium at 6:30 on the morning of August 5 with a VIP card and CNY 10,000 in cash down payment in hand ready to wait for his number to be called and to claim a flat for himself, noting that many potential homebuyers there were around 25 years old, and estimating the crowd at between 7,000 to 8,000 people.
Your number gets called, you choose your flat, and then you paid, with the lineup allegedly having quickly stretched several hours long. Between the straining to listen for their numbers from the gymnasium bleachers, he writes, and clutching tensely the bundles of cash they brought—credit cards weren't being accepted—it wasn't long before people got worked up. Eventually the chairman of the proceedings began calling people up on their mobile phones, informing them that many of the flats had already been informally reserved by the developer for in-house use. Quite tired by this point, people were unsatisfied at hearing this. One woman charged down onto the floor and began demanding a refund. This quickly led to the situation getting out of hand, and the angry mob's departure for the developer's office, demanding refunds.
They ripped the door off the Sales Office when they arrived, storming in and smashing walls and other things. The police arrived, who then quickly called for backup and there were some scuffles, but no fighting either way. Eventually the police let the remainder of the crowd into the office where among what they found was an official notice from the State Land Administration for the developer to cease illegally issuing VIP cards, as well as a list of flats which had been reserved by company executives which included the names and phone numbers of those involved, the size and location of the flat.
Someone came out to speak—whom he wasn't able to see—and the crowd charged again, with violent clashes between police and homeowners now taking place and, the writer says he personally saw, at least two women be surrounded by seven or eight police officers and beaten. Another charge, and then a letter of guarantee stamped and signed by the developer suddenly arrived, promising those who wished a CNY 10,000 refund for their CNY 6,666 VIP card. No time reference is given, but his account ends here; judging from what many others have written, the crowd dispersed around 2 am on August 6.
Tencent has set up a page devoted strictly to the incident, and much more in eye-witness accounts is to be found at the Chongqing section of the real estate website Soufun.com, including a market description and layout diagram of the housing estate.
Discussion on the forums is covering all sorts of topics: members proposing votes on whether to follow through with purchasing the flat or seek a refund, a space devoted to personal testimonies of violence seen or felt that night, including a photo of one woman ostensibly injured during the rumble.
There's even been a Sina blog set up for this incident which is still being updated. Within can be found many photos of the smashed plants—even a temporary roadblock—from earlier in the day, and the mob action later at night.
Comparison has is made to The Nailhouse and details of the day and night's proceedings are provided.
Some forum members are accused of attempting to influence the course of discussion in several forum threads which if true would explain the quick change of tune seen in some newer threads, with anonymous users writes reassuringly of the developers, heralding their exceptional integrity in resolving the situation, garnering little response from other users.
There's also a thread seeking to organize people for injury compensation, and another which alleges one pregnant woman was beaten and others present even killed, although users are quick to negate the death claim and emphasize that injuries sustained were not serious.
As mentioned above, on early morning August 6 the developers released a letter of guarantee responding to the grievances of those shortchanged with promises to offer them first choice in properties of the same price from the next phase of development, quickly raising questions of when that construction will begin, when it will finish, the quality and appearance of these flats, looking upon these promises with serious skepticism. Another thread summarizes those suspicions and provides a photo of the letter of guarantee, which states that ‘those not willing to buy houses on August 5′ can have their VIP cards refunded for 10,000 on August 7, adding that no more VIP cards will be issued.
The same concerns are echoed yet in more threads, with home buyers vowing to try and seek a refund, resigned to buy elsewhere, as property prices across the city are rising steadily. Like this thread, where one user writes:
Whether it's the pre-sale sales staff or the developers themselves, they've given all of us a beautiful, beautiful dream. Everyone's anticipating, longing, waiting for this beautiful dream to come true. To this day, though, all we've been given is one big BANG; and in the plume of smoke yet to drift off, we can see the following eye-opening words: this was all just a daydream…
Us bunch of youngsters who carry dreams of a beautiful life, aye, everyone must join together and rise up, no matter if they beat us, terrorize us or even buy a few of us off, we want the developers and the government to pay a price for this.
At least one thread claims that following the house selection in the gymnasium, when the crowed stormed the developer's office, police began beating people at one sergeant's orders.
Homeowners even issued a list of the previous issues and their recommendations for recourse. During the storming of the developer's office, the crowd got their hands on several documents which they've posted online, like this one which shows how many of the flats were reserved for company executives and their friends and relatives:
A series of photos have been gathered at the Cultural Vanguard forum, where not much discussion on this has taken place:
Perhaps related, on August 12 a video was uploaded to China's largest video website 56.com by user cuidi3zhu which shows a group of angry homeowners arguing with what appear to be representatives of a property development company, speaking in the Chongqing dialect: