Public Responds to Demolition of 'Stubborn House'

April 6, 2007 Updated: April 6, 2007

In the city of Chongqing (located in China's Sichuan Province) Yang Wu and his wife, Wu Ping, have been known as “the most stubborn family,” refusing to submit to developers for over two years. Having finally reached a deal with the city and the development company, the couple's house was demolished on the evening of April 2. Nevertheless, many are beginning to question whether they actually received the sum they were promised. Internet broadcasts describing this situation has brought worldwide attention to this “stubborn house,” and in the process, journalist Zhou Shuguang has gained a fantastic reputation for his bravery in reporting the incident in his blog.

According to an internet surfer who were onsite during the demolition, on the evening of April 2, traffic police cordoned off the Yang's property—an island amidst the rest of the neighborhood demolished long ago—and reporters were required police approval to enter this demolition site.

The city's district court vice president, Yang Guang, held a press conference in the afternoon of April 3, claiming that under court assistance, the Yang's and Chongqing Zhirun Real Estate Inc. had reached an agreement on April 2. The Yang family agreed to trade in their house for another home provided by the company.

Yang Guang explained that the couple was exhausted from the ordeal and did not wish to give a public statement, but he reaffirmed that their freedom “was not restricted in any way.”

Paying his own fare from Hunan Province to Chongqing City, volunteer reporter, Zhou Shuguang, has been covering the entire ordeal. He has been instrumental in bringing this standoff worldwide attention. Zhou still questions why neither side made their transaction public. He asks, “Was Wu Ping threatened? Or did she manipulate the media during this process?”

Before it was torn down, the Yang's home was like a lone island. (China Photos/Getty Images)
Before it was torn down, the Yang's home was like a lone island. (China Photos/Getty Images)

On his blog, Zhou Shuguang wrote, “I called the Yang's today at eight in the morning, but both their cell phones were disconnected. They're no where to be found.”

Wide Spread Commentary

Zhou Xiaozheng, chairman of the research institute in China's Renmin University's Department of Law and Sociology, said that the Yang's should have kept their building to become a milestone of Chinese people's fight for their property rights.

Referring to a now famous photo of the house standing atop a ten meter plateau, an online chatter said that history would always remember this picture. On a widely circulated web page, another individual praised “the stubborn house” as a good precedent for the everyday people of China.

The China News Agency website characterized the incident as a typical example of officials and developers violating the interests of the citizens. They claimed that if there were more civil disobedience among citizens, China would be closer to a society ruled by law. Another comment concerning this event explained that, in being the “most stubborn family,” the Yang's had raised enough public concern to force the developers and the city government to compromise.

In reality, the Yang's represent a fortunate example among families in China. In some parts of the country where local officials confiscated land for the development of industrial parks, commercial and residential projects, citizens who dared to protest were effectively suppressed by authorities.

Analysts point out that the spirit of the “most stubborn family” will soon spread all over China, with more ” stubborn families” popping up in the future. They say the Chinese Communist authorities should think twice before suppressing these voices.

“This is a tug-of-war: when the government backs off a little, we push forward a little; of course, we'll persist until it concedes,” said Zhou Shuguang on Voice of America. He believes China can no longer block news it doesn't want reported; the Internet and other media are not completely blocked like they may have hoped.

“Right now, there are quite a few people who are persistent in China,” said Zhou. “Whether we can achieve democracy or not, we need to go for it; we should rely on our own efforts and not on generosity from others.”

History of the Incident

The photo of “the most stubborn house,” resembling an isolated island in a sea of long destroyed buildings, began to attract attention on February 16, 2007 when it first appeared on the Internet. By the beginning of March, the photo was widely publicized and named the “the most stubborn household in China.” For many it symbolizes the people's struggle against authorities' forcible eviction.

Southern Metropolitan News first reported this incident on March 8, and other media in Mainland China soon followed. Many reporters both inside and outside China came to Chongqing, and interviewed the Yang's.

Facing a couple who had refused to leave their home, developers approached the court to have the Yang's forcibly removed. The court ruled that the owners would have to demolish the house themselves before March 22 and move out before March 29, but the couple ignored the deadline.

The Yang's continued to fight for their home until April 1. The city held a press conference on March 31, but fourteen security guards blocked the only entry road to the house, and press was not allowed in.

Trying to thwart the growing media attention of the ordeal, the Communist State's Council Information Office issued an order to ban reporting on the incident.

Netease, Sina, and other major websites were told to delete anything related to “the most stubborn house.”