Planet China

The big dig

Hongkongers will recall how an illegal basement proved the undoing of Henry Tang in his 2012 campaign to become the territory’s leader. In Beijing it has had equally negative consequences for Li Baojun, a rich businessman, deputy to China’s parliamentary advisory body, the CPPCC, and a lawmaker in Xuzhou.

The story began when a plot of land Li owned in the city collapsed, creating a pit 10 metres deep. Nearby bungalows were wrecked and had to be evacuated. To stop higher-rise structures from collapsing, the municipal authorities rushed to fill the pit with 2,000 cubic metres of concrete, an operation that took nearly 50 hours.

And the reason for the disaster? Li had purchased five adjacent properties and knocked them down. He then ordered his builders to burrow into the enlarged plot to create a basement for his super-luxury Beijing residence. When nearby residents complained, the local munipality told him to stop the work and restore the site. According to the Beijing Times, Li signed a rectification order but nothing was done. Six months of digging had led to chronic subsidence which late last month led to the disaster.

One of the residents whose home was destroyed told the newspaper that she had lived in the house for nearly 50 years, but was now having to live in a hotel. China Youth Daily said that as a deputy to the CPPCC “Li clearly understood the relevant laws and regulations, but still secretly proceeded with the construction, which only indicates that he knowingly broke the law.”

No punishment has been announced thus far, but Li has resigned from Xuzhou’s branch of the National People’s Congress.­­­­

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