Mon, Jun 12, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Shanghai residents protest crackdown on conversions

Reuters, SHANGHAI and BEIJING

Hundreds of demonstrators marched through a shopping district in Shanghai on Saturday, protesting against changes to housing regulations, in a rare show of public dissent, while Chinese social media users yesterday angrily criticized the Shanghai government crackdown on unauthorized real-estate activity.

Footage of the protests late on Saturday shared on social media showed hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators holding placards and shouting slogans while marching along Nanjing East Road in the city center.

One video showed police setting up blockades and dragging a demonstrator away.

Media carried no reports of the demonstrations, while mentions of the protests on social media were quickly scrubbed by Internet censors.

Two witnesses said about 10 of the protesters who were hoisting banners and appeared to be leading the demonstrations were taken away by police.

“One whole side of the street in front of the Apple store was filled with people,” said one nearby stall owner who declined to be identified, adding the crowd gathered about 8pm and dispersed by 10pm. “The police came and took the leaders away.”

Protesters were angry about measures announced on May 17 by Shanghai’s housing bureau to “clean up and rectify” commercial office projects that had been converted into apartments, in a grey area property developers previously exploited by acquiring land at cheaper prices than residential-zoned land.

The government measures require developers and buyers to rectify violations such as separately installed toilets and kitchens before they are able to be sold on, effectively rendering them uninhabitable and worth a fraction of the purchase price.

A total of 17 million square meters of such projects are targeted by the campaign, the Shanghai government said on its social media account, of which 5 million square meters have been delivered to buyers.

“They are shouting for their only home in Shanghai, bought by their whole family’s savings through legal means,” one person said in a Weibo social media post, which was later deleted. “This year the government suddenly changed policies, saying it’s not allowed to live in there, leaving hundreds of thousands of ordinary homeowners unable to normally sell their homes.”

“An oppressive government drives the people to rebellion. The poor masses!” one of many outraged postings on Weibo said.

Additional reporting by AFP

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