Over 20,000 Merchants Protest Against up to Five-Fold Rise in Rent in Southwest China

November 8, 2020 Updated: November 8, 2020

In early November, businesspeople in New Luoshiwan wholesales center located in Kunming city, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province, spent three days protesting their rent hikes.

On Nov. 3,  around 11 a.m., more than 2,000 police officers and security guards showed up and forced them to pay off their rents on the due dates, or else they would have to move out of the center.

Wang Lei (alias), a local merchant, told The Epoch Times that on Nov. 4, about 20,000 or 30,000 angry dealers who closed their stores and rallied in protest of skyrocketing rents. They shouted slogans and demanded that the landlord stop the rental rise. According to his account, protests continued from the morning until 2 pm, when police arrived at the scene. Wang said that he was not sure how many of them were gathered there exactly, but several leading activists were taken into police custody.

Another merchant Liu Yun also confirmed that about 90 percent of the merchants went on strike on Nov. 4, probably 20,000 to 30,000 in total.

On Nov. 5, the detainees were set free. Many policem officers were deployed within the trading center. No rally or public protests continued that day.

In the coming days, dissatisfied merchants are planning to collect signatures of a joint letter of protest and submit them to higher-level local authorities for review.

Complaints from Local Merchants

Currently, the center is home to businesses of more than 35,000 merchants, the largest comprehensive wholesale trading market in southwest China. These businesspeople have rented their shops for five years. Initially, the center was developed by Zhonghao Group. Later, it was transferred to Junfa Group, a leading real estate company in Yunnan, after Zhonghao’s bankruptcy.

Tian Ming (alias), a merchant at the center, told The Epoch Times that his current rent for a 28-square-meter space is around 280,000 yuan ($42,350) for the period of five years. However, the renewal five-year rent for his shop will be between 1,642,300 ($248,400) and 1,815,200 yuan ($274,550), rising five- or six-fold. Furthermore, the total rental for the five-year period must be paid in full before Jan. 4, 2021, according to Tian.

“We have no idea of how the center’s landlord charges rents,” Tian added. “It’s unbearably high.”

Another merchant Liu Yun (alias) said, “Our store has five shops. Now they (Junfa Group) charge us 3.6 million yuan ($544,500) for five years.”

Landlord Has $1.07 Billion of Mortgaged Loans Due in 2021

A document provided by Tian shows that Junfa Group is scheduled to pay its mortgaged loans, valued up to 7.1 billion yuan (about $1.07 billion), including 6.3 billion in principal and 0.8 billion in interest. In the document, it is made clear that the rent paid by merchants shall be forwarded to repay the loan, as required in the company’s restructuring agreement.

Epoch Times Photo
Document Showing 7.1 billion yuan of mortgaged loans are due on Jan. 4, 2021. (Provided by an interviewee to The Epoch Times)