Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

`Stubborn Nail' loses home but wins large settlement

AFP , CHONGQING, CHINA

Chinese workmen demolished a house that had attained almost iconic status because of its owners' refusal to move for a huge property project, but the couples' three-year battle may have paid off.

Wu Ping (吳蘋), whose struggle against the developers earned her the nickname "Stubborn Nail," and her husband had their two-story brick house in Chongqing demolished late on Monday night.

Their plight -- thrown into the spotlight partly thanks to photos of the house sitting in the middle of a massive pit excavated around it -- became a symbol of the little man's defiance of China's moneyed interests.

However, the couple appeared to have been rewarded handsomely for holding out, with a court in Chongqing announcing yesterday they would be given a new home nearby valued at about 3 million yuan (US$390,000).

In addition, they were awarded 900,000 yuan in damages because the developer had cut off water and electricity, and blocked traffic to the home during the three-year stand-off.

"This case has been appropriately settled," said Jiang Li, head of the Jiulongpo District People's Court in Chongqing.

"We have undergone active consultations many times with each party in this demolition case. We have worked to overcome differences and expand common ground and we have created the conditions to reach an agreement," Jiang said.

Wu had previously said she and her husband, Yang Wu (楊武), wanted a house of the same size in the same area, plus 1 million yuan in compensation for losing the successful restaurant they ran from their home.

The 49-year old, who ran a high-profile publicity campaign rarely seen in China, was not available to talk to reporters yesterday.

When Wu was told the house was gone, she said simply: "Oh, well."

Wu said her husband had safely left the house before it was torn down after holding a vigil of more than a week and refusing to leave until an agreement was reached.

As the citizens of Chongqing woke up to the disappearance of the house, they expressed admiration for Wu.

"She stood up to the government, she stood up to the developers," said a man who gave his surname as Chen.

The legal battle had raged since Wu rejected a compensation offer to move out that was accepted by 280 other homeowners, holding up a major development.

Wu had incessantly accused the local government of collusion with the developer, while refusing to bow to the strong-arm tactics to move her out.

Earlier this year, she filed a lawsuit maintaining that she could not be forced to leave.

The National People's Congress passed a landmark law last month that solidified private property rights, partly to combat such land grab disputes.

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