Wenling, Zhejiang province, Nov 23: In an eastern Chinese town, a lone five-storey house rises abruptly in the middle of a thoroughfare leading to the town's newly-built railway station.
Luo Baogen and his wife are the lone holdouts from a neighbourhood of once-connected homes that was demolished to make way for the main thoroughfare heading to a newly built railway station on the outskirts of the city of Wenling in Zhejiang province.
Dramatic images of Luo's home have circulated widely online in China this week, becoming the latest symbol of resistance in the frequent, countrywide standoffs between homeowners and local officials accused of offering too little compensation to vacate neighbourhoods for major redevelopment projects.
On Wenling's planning map is a brand-new railway district, which will be anchored by the train station and filled with businesses, hotels, shopping malls and factories by 2020.
Xiayangzhang village chief Chen Xuecai said in a telephone interview on Friday that city planners decided that his outlying village of 1,600 had to be moved for a new business district anchored by the train station, and that most of the families agreed to government-offered compensation back in 2007.
Not Luo Baogen, a 67 year-old duck farmer.
“I just want them to build another house for me. They can build a house of the same size somewhere else and get it decorated as my house. This is all that I want.,” Luo told local reporters on Thursday in video footage forwarded to The Associated Press.
Luo had only just completed his five-story house at a cost of about 600,000 yuan (95,000 US dollars) when the government approached him with their standard offer of 220,000 (35,000 US dollars) to move out - which he refused, Chen said.
The new road to the railroad station was completed in recent weeks, and has not yet been opened for traffic.
What has been unusual in Luo's case is that his house has been allowed to stand for so long. It is common for local authorities in China to take extreme measures, such as cutting off utilities or moving in to demolish when residents are out for the day.
The homes that resist are called “nail houses” - those who defiantly remain standing, refusing to be hammered down. Nail house families occasionally have resorted to violence, or set themselves on fire in protests.
Often, they keep 24-hour vigils because developers will shy away from bulldozing homes when people are inside.
Luo told local reporters his electricity and water are still flowing, and that he and his wife sleep in separate parts of the home to deter any partial demolition.
Luo told the reporters that the government-offered compensation- which has gone up to 260,000 yuan - is not enough. He also said he still has water and electricity.
Deputy village chief Luo Xuehua - a cousin to the duck farmer - said he didn't expect the dispute to go on much longer. He said he expects Luo Baogen to reach an agreement with the government soon, though he said the homeowner's demands are unrealistic.