Chinese Social Web Shines Spotlight on Illegal Rooftop Structures

More and more Chinese netizens are uploading pictures to social media of elaborate rooftop constructions around the country in an effort to pressure authorities to clear out the illegal structures and more fairly enforce the law.

One of the first constructions to draw attention online was that of a rooftop villa in Beijing that resembles a lush green mountaintop. The Beijing rooftop villa was built five years ago by a Chinese medical doctor Chang Biqing. The illegal addition has never been approved by the city authorities and has brought serious leakage problem for other residents of the same building.

Nevertheless, the city management administration had failed to enforce the demolition order until the case was exposed through local newspapers and widely spread in social media. Below is a video showing ostentatious villa:

Writer Juncaixinchi (俊采興馳) on Tianya, a popular online forum in China, pointed out [zh] that the selective law enforcement by the city management authority is a result of consent inequality:

百姓的权益得不到维护已经有5年之久,而此霸道的空中楼阁也已经霸道的存在于京城空中5年之久,这样的情况,应该没有人不知道,实际上,辖区城管的违章建筑拆除通知已经下达了5年,却未能清除。城管执法被人病垢已久的直接、简单、粗暴,在此时却显得如此的宽容和耐心 […]

It has been five years since the residents had filed complaint to the authorities but the bizarre rooftop villa has continued to exist in Beijing for five years. This is not a secret. In fact, the demolition notice was issued by the city management authority five years ago, only that it has not been enforced. The brutal, straightforward attitude of city management [in handling street vendors] has been widely criticized, but in this case, they are so patient and tolerant […]

The writer further explained how media and netizens intervention has brought change:


[…] An third party entered the scene. The story was reported and distributed online, catching everyone's attention.
The intervention of the third party has broken the consensus between the villa owner and the authority, unleashing the anger of the other residents, who had been repressed. Under such pressure, both the government and the villa owner Chang Biqing have to find a way out. That's why they started demolishing the illegal villa instantly.

The Beijing case has set an example for others. More and more residents affected by illegal rooftop constructions have started publishing photos and videos to social media platforms.

The online sentiment has generated huge public pressure on the owners of such structures. For example, in Heng Yang, the developer of 25 villas on the roof of a furniture shopping mall, has finally given in and torn down the illegal construction on August 21. When the case was first exposed in early August by Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reporting [zh], the developer refused to take action claiming that the villas are dormitories for the workers in the shopping mall.

Screen capture from Zhuzhengnan's video on the Suzhou rooftop villa.

Screen capture from Zhuzhengnan's video on the Suzhou rooftop villa.

In the past two weeks, netizens have revealed more cases. @shoujipaike on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo highlighted a video taken by Zhuzhengnan on a smartphone of an illegal Suzhou rooftop villa:

【苏州楼顶园林式别墅被举报6年 传业主是官员】近日网民爆料称,苏州市区某大厦楼顶有疑似违章的园林式建筑,影响楼内业主生活,但市民6年来举报多次无果,堪称“苏州最牛违建”。有居民透露,“空中花园”的业主“是个当官的,权力很大”。实拍视频由网友@朱征南 提供

[Rooftop villa in Suzhou reported to authorities over the course of six years. The hearsay is that the villa is owned by a government official] Recently netizens reported that a villa on the roof of a building in Suzhou city has disturbed residents. They filed complaints to authorities over the course of six years but no action been taken. It is the most strange illegal construction in Suzhou. Some residents revealed that the rooftop villa's owner is a powerful government official.

@”Sister Anber” (@Anber姐姐蔚) also detected a case in Xian:

【西安现违章加盖“空中仿古庭院” 官方展开调查】8月21日消息,北京的“最牛违建”正在拆除,西安市一小区内的高层楼顶又被曝出加盖了“空中仿古庭院”。21日,西安市规划局莲湖分局介入调查,并责令该业主立即停止违法建设行为。

[An illegal rooftop “courtyard in ancient Chinese style” in Xian. Authorities begin an investigation] News on August 21. While the most bizarre illegal construction was torn down in Beijing, a rooftop “courtyard in the ancient Chinese style” has been revealed on a high-rise building in Xian city. The Lianhu branch of Xian city planning bureau has started investigating the case. A warning has been issued to the owner.

Photo uploaded by Changweibao

Photo uploaded by Changweibao

The latest case is exposed by @changweibo who tagged a number of Shenzhen-based newspapers to follow the rooftop temple construction:

#深圳也有最牛屋顶违建#报料开始:南山区华侨城沙河街道的美加广场(益田假日广场后面,世界之窗对面)E栋屋顶有违建,从外观看非常明显,呈庙宇状。据说加建的2103号房户主在市里有背景,一直无法查处,媒体也不敢报道。很好奇这位牛户主是什么人,求转发人肉之。@晶报 @南方都市报 @深圳微博发布厅

#Shenzhen also have most absurd illegal rooftop construction# Here begin the whistle-blowing: The E flat of Meijia Square at Huaqiao town in Nanshan district (at the back of Yitian holiday shopping mall and opposite to the theme park of the World's Window) has an illegal rooftop structure. It looks obviously like a temple. The hearsay is the owner has some background and the law enforcement unit dare not touch it nor the media. I wonder who is the owner, please find out. @Jingpao @Nanfang Metro Daily @Shenzhen Weibo press release center.

Photo uploaded by Changweibao:

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