When the bulldozers came to demolish the Luo family home, they didn’t have a hard time finding it. It was standing right in the middle of a brand new dual-carriageway.
The five-storey building in Wenling is in the eastern province of Zhejiang and gained worldwide fame after appearing in a local news bulletin.
Known as a ‘nail house’ in Chinese (the graphic term refers to lone properties sticking out like stubborn nails because their owners refuse to relocate), the building was the last of some 450 homes already demolished to make way for the new highway. But the Luo family refused to agree to the demolition, which began four years ago, because it felt that the compensation package was not enough.
Last week they agreed to accept the government’s original offer of Rmb260,000 ($41,723). They didn’t say why – after holding out for so long. But it might be because the road is due to open.
“It was never a final solution for us to live in a lone house in the middle of the road. After the government’s explanations, I finally decided to move,” Xinhua reported Luo as saying.
Unlike the occupants of other nail houses, the Luos had water and electricity up to the point of agreeing to depart. As weibo contributors pointed out, the dispute was settled peacefully. Others confrontations have led to violence and suicide.
“The Wenling demolition was a model of how to do it correctly. It was carried out in full accordance with property law, human rights and social justice,” the Legal Daily applauded.
The newspaper also commended the government for not paying Luo any more than the homeowners who had agreed to move out earlier. Otherwise, more people would refuse to be relocated, hoping to hold out for bigger payouts.
Netizens also seemed happier with the government for its gentler approach this time around. However, they did point out that the compensation package would not allow Luo to buy a house of the same size in Wenling.
“Rmb260,000 for that house, how cruel, what can they buy with that money?” wrote one Sina Weibo user.
Others compared the Luos to a family in the southeastern city of Chongqing who held out for three years against local developers who wanted to knock down their house to build a shopping mall. During the final months of the standoff the effected property stood alone on a column of earth in the middle of huge excavation pit.
To prevent the bulldozers moving in, the owner refused to leave the building, remaining on vigil while his wife ferried in food and water by bucket and rope.
He also flew a large Chinese flag over his property to symbolise his defiance of the developers rather than the government.
The strategy paid off. The family eventually moved out after the property developer offered them Rmb900,000 in compensation.
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