Chinese tower block villa has to go
A Chinese businessman who spent six years building an unauthorised private mountain peak and luxury villa atop a high-rise apartment block in Beijing has been given 15 days to tear it down.
The complex of rooms, rocks, trees and bushes looming over the 26-storey building looks like something built into a seaside cliff, and has become the latest symbol of disregard for the law among the rich as well as the rampant practice of building illegal additions.
Angry neighbours say they have complained for years that the 8,600-sq. feet mansion and its attached landscaping was damaging the building's structural integrity and its pipe system, but that local authorities failed to crack down. "They've been renovating for years. They normally do it at night," said one resident on the building's 25th floor, who added that any attempts to reason with the owner were met with indifference. "He was very arrogant. He could care less about my complaints," said the neighbour.
Haidian district urban council said it would tear the two-storey structure down in 15 days unless the owner does so himself or presents evidence it was legally built.
The villa's owner has been identified as the head of a traditional Chinese medicine business and former member of the district's political advisory body who lives on the building's 26th floor. He refused to call the structure a villa, saying it was "just an ornamental garden."
Authorities took action only after photos of the villa were splashed across Chinese media. Newspapers have fronted their editions with large photographs of the complex, along with the headline "Beijing's most outrageous illegal structure."
The case strikes a chord among ordinary Chinese who regularly see the rich and politically connected receive special treatment. Expensive vehicles lacking licence plates are a common sight, while luxury housing complexes that surround Beijing and other cities are often built on land appropriated from farmers with little compensation.
China's leader Xi Jinping has vowed to crack down on official corruption, and Beijing itself launched a campaign earlier this year to demolish illegal structures, although the results remain unclear.
Demand for property remains high, however, and the rooftop extralegal mansion construction is far from unique. A developer in the central city of Hengyang recently got into troubble over an illegally built complex of 25 villas on top of a shopping centre.
While all land in China technically belongs to the state - with homebuyers merely given 70-year leases - the rules are often vague, leaving questions of usage rights and ownership murky.