On Saturday night, Shanghai’s bustling East Nanjing Road was taken over for a couple of hours by hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters, angry over a crackdown in housing regulations which has caused the value of their property to plummet.
Videos hit Chinese social media over the weekend showing the massive crowd of demonstrators holding up signs and chanting slogans in front of police barricades on the glitzy pedestrian shopping street in the heart of Shanghai.
The videos also show some of the protesters being dragged and carried away by police. Two witnesses told Reuters that about 10 of the demonstrators were arrested, presumed to be the leaders of the protest.
The protesters are upset after buying into a formerly grey area in the Shanghai real estate market, which was suddenly rendered black-and-white on May 17th as Shanghai’s housing bureau launched a campaign to “clean up and rectify” commercial office projects in the city which had been converted into apartments for residents.
Because these projects were zoned commercial, opportunistic buyers were able to snap them up at a fraction of the cost of similarly-sized and located residential-zoned spaces in the city. This sort of shady business has been going on in Shanghai for more than a decade.
However, the government has suddenly decided to do something about it, banning these converted flats from being sold until certain changes are made to turn them back into office space, such as stripping away kitchens and extra bathrooms, effectively costing many across the city their homes and savings — the government estimates that there are 17 million square meters of such projects in the city, 5 million square meters of which have already been delivered to buyers.
For their part, the buyers claim that they were tricked by sellers who advertised the spaces as being “both living and office.”
“We understand that there could be transgressions on the part of the developers, but we’d also like to ask the rule makers to take into consideration our great predicament as the buyers of such houses: most of the buyers are just beguiled ordinary people who spent generations of family savings just to have a place to live in the great city Shanghai, and the newly issued rules would absolutely devastate their hope,” reads the description under one video of the protests posted to YouTube by the “owners of the ‘office-turned-residences’ in Shanghai.”
While protests in China are anything but rare, it is uncommon to see a large-scale demonstration in the center of Shanghai. According to SCMP, Chinese media were ordered not to report on the protests. Meanwhile, photos and videos of the demonstration have been harmonized on Chinese social media by censors, while discussion has been squashed.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post included images from a different protest last month which have been removed.
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