Rich Peking citizens take on HK developer

When ordinary people have a run in with the government or their cronies, they are usually beaten up by some goons, or disappear in one of the many ‘black jails’. Now some rich money bags find themselves ”cheated”, and try to stop construction of a highway near their multimillion apartments in Peking. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. This article was in the South China Morning Post today.

When wealthy Beijingers bought flats in one of the city’s most exclusive apartment complexes, they claim they weren’t told a four-lane highway would be built beneath their windows.

Now hundreds of them are threatening legal action against secretive Hong Kong billionaire Hui Wing-mau, the founder and chairman of the Shimao Group.

The residents of Shimao Olive Garden say they will sue the property tycoon – also known as Xu Rongmao – unless his Shimao Property company helps stop construction of the highway.

The block, with its exclusive views over the Olympic National Park, is considered among the five most desirable places to live in the capital.

“We were duped into buying our homes because Mr Hui’s company did not disclose the land around our complex was subject to future development,” said Ruben Liu, a financial investor who is spearheading the residents’ protest.

“We stand to have our quality of life ruined by an expressway and will lose millions of yuan because our properties will drop in value.” (I love this part :))

Peter Wong, an American business owner married to a Chinese national who is also co-ordinating the campaign, said: “We have been cheated. We were led to believe by the Shimao Group that our homes were built on protected green belt. But we have been given government documents that claim the Hong Kong developer was made aware that future construction had been approved and was likely. You don’t expect such deception from a Hong Kong company.”  (This is hilarious haha; doesn’t this dumbass know that Hong Kong is part of China again since 1997?!)

A spokeswoman for the Shimao Group in Hong Kong said the company’s Beijing office had been in contact with the residents.

“It’s the first we have heard about this issue at headquarters [in Hong Kong]. We are investigating the complaints and will work with the residents for a solution,” she said.

More than 100 residents staged a protest this month, unfurling a large banner calling for a halt to construction and for the Shimao Group and Beijing government “to protect our rights”. They also used a 40-strong fleet of cars – including Maseratis, Ferraris and Mercedes-Benz – adorned with protest stickers to block construction vehicles and halt work for several hours.

A poster campaign around the complex calls on its 6,000 affluent residents to take action. It also calls on them to pour funds into a legal war chest in readiness for a court showdown with Hui, a justice of the peace who is ranked sixth on the latest Forbes China 400 Rich List with a net worth of US$3.85 billion.

Wong said: “We have the support of 300 residents so far. We are determined to get justice. We are not out to make trouble, but we know our rights and cannot be cheated like less well off citizens. We will seek compensation from Mr Hui if the road is completed. But our aim is to fight to have it stopped.”

The expressway will link a new mass-housing complex 1.5 kilometres away in Changping district to the Olympic park in Chaoyang district. Both district administrations and the developer claim construction of the road is legal.

As part of their well-organised and well-funded protest, the Olive Garden residents have targeted municipal urban planning officers. But their act of middle-class militancy has rattled the authorities.

On January 11, police vehicles blocked the road when 60 residents boarded three coaches taking them to the offices of the municipal urban planning department for a protest. Seven residents were allowed to meet senior officials, who handed over an official document – since seen by the Sunday Morning Post – that states construction of the road was approved in 2000. Government officials said the Shimao Group was made aware of future building projects before it broke ground in 2003.

In an official letter issued two weeks ago, the Beijing government “suggested” the construction be stopped. But Wong said work continues around the clock. “The government’s reaction has been meaningless,” he said.

The flats were sold on the strength of their quiet, green and prime location and stunning views. A brochure states: “Excellent quality makes you feel at home … Shimao noticed the remarkable regional, ecological and viewing value of the national forest park.”

The flats sold for between 15,000 and 20,000 yuan (HK$17,000 and HK$22,700) per square metre in 2005. Property agents say prices have doubled since then.

A bridge being built across the Qing River is the focus of protests.

Speaking from her 33rd floor penthouse Angela Chui said: “We saw the diggers and workers move in at the start of December. We thought they were building another footbridge, but then we saw the protest posters and were told by other residents the expressway will come within 10 metres of the complex.

“We were told the land around us was protected by the government. The work is taking place on what we believe to be green belt. We have to fight to stop it.”

Wong said: “We have been brushed off by officials and the Shimao Group. But we will not be ignored.”

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About Stranded Mariner

Marine Engineer and passionate sailor and cruiser, working in the marine business in China.
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