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Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 13:39 UK

Stand-off at Beijing 'nail house'

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Yu Pingju, outside her house
Ms Yu says she and her family have nowhere else to go

A Beijing family are refusing to move from their city centre home, despite a court order threatening to throw them out.

Family members say they are not being offered enough compensation for the home they bought 60 years ago.

Their campaign is attracting large crowds, who gather at the tumble-down shack in the heart of historic Beijing. It could pose a problem for officials, who want to avoid embarrassing incidents ahead of the Olympic Games.

Yu Pingju, one of 14 family members who live in the house, said it was bought before the Communists took power in China in 1949.

Until recently, it was also the family's workplace; they sold roast chestnuts, peanuts and other snacks from the roadside home.

Yu Pingju's house
The slogan-covered house has drawn crowds in Beijing

But then they were told to move as part of a plan to tidy up the neighbourhood, which is near many of the city's main tourist attractions.

All other residents appear to have moved on, allowing the area to be spruced up. But the Yus refused to accept the 340,000 yuan ($49,900, 24,800) compensation.

"In Beijing you can't even buy something the size of a toilet for that," said 40-year-old Ms Yu, as she stood with her arms folded outside her home.

Officials who administer the district have obtained a court order, which says the family had to move out by 13 July. But they are still there.

"I'm not going - I've got nowhere to go to. We are going to defend our house with our lives," said Ms Yu.

'No say'

The Yus' Beijing home is one of many "nail houses" that have sprung up over China, particularly since the introduction of a property law last year.

These are homes whose owners have refused to leave to make way for redevelopment.

As part of their campaign, the family have plastered their shack with flags and slogans. One says simply: "This is my home."

A digger waits next to the house
Developers and home-owners have been facing off across China

They have also put up posters of Chinese leaders because they believe they could help them resolve the issue.

"If they knew about this problem, they would look after us. They would care and sympathise with us," said Ms Yu.

The colourful home has now become something of an attraction, grabbing the attention of passers-by and those who live in the district.

One local said: "In Beijing, house demolition often ends up with forced eviction. Ordinary people don't have a say."

This poses a problem for Beijing officials, who will want to resolve the issue without being too heavy-handed.

A digger stands nearby to clear away the home, but officials will be loath to use it unless the family can be persuaded to leave peacefully.

Meng Qingli, a local official, said the local government was aware of the situation and was trying to resolve it.

"Our principle is to put people first," said Mr Meng.

Separately on Wednesday, Chinese state media said the central government had told local officials to be more responsive to complaints from ordinary people.

There have been a number of major protests in China over recent weeks, protests that Beijing officials do not want to see happening.

They seem particularly worried about public displays of anger while the eyes of the world are on China during the Olympic Games.


SEE ALSO
Demolition ends China house row
03 Apr 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Woman defies Chinese developers
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China passes new law on property
16 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
New property law shakes up China
08 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
China economy records huge growth
25 Jan 07 |  Business
China's rural millions left behind
07 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
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