Nail House and Nunchuks

In 2004 a group of developers had found the perfect site for a shopping complex in the Chinese municipality of Chongqing; all they had to do was remove the people living there. In 2004 they set to task, buying the land from the government and evicting everyone from the houses with nothing more than thugs and a small cash consolation. 280 home owners were removed, but one pair of ‘stubborn nails’ remained, Wu Ping and her husband Yang Wu. Then the battle began.

Instead of leaving with the petty cash they stayed, settling into the house while the land around was picked clean by the excavating vehicles. The ground around the house slowly disappeared but the couple stayed. Slowly the house appeared to rise on its earthen plinth until it sat raised, 10 metres above the ground below. Then water and electricity were cut. The developers were far from pleased.

A pair of thugs were sent up to intimidate the couple but Yang Wu, a local martial-arts champion, was not threatened. Over the three years things escalated and news spread. The towering two-storey house was a showcase for the struggle between citizens and rich developers in an aggressively growing China. A China that didn’t protect its citizens. As Wu Ping said:

“I’m not stubborn or unruly, I’m just trying to protect my personal rights as a citizen.”

Over 3 years the developers took the case to court to have them evicted and the house demolished, the eviction notice was maintained, but the court refused to grant a demolition notice. Still fearful for the house at least one of the two was in the house at any one time. While Wu Ping held conferences and raised awareness, Yang Wu helped in his own way using martial arts.

Yang Wu threatened to use his martial-arts skills to beat up any authorities that scaled the mud mound. Then, with the violent and thorough application of his personal nunchuks to the soft, bruised earth, he cut stairs leading up the ten metres to the house. All for simple convenience.

After the completion of the nunchuk-stairs he placed a Chinese flag on the roof to claim his case as a case for all the people of China. The lack of utilities took its toll but the couple still carried on, enjoying the moral and physical high ground. Yang Wu protected the building while Wu Ping conducted interviews and the like. A system of ropes and pulleys was implemented so that food, water and blankets could be sent up to Yang in the house.

Compensation offers were made but the couple declined. Their demands were called “unreasonable” and the housing authority ordered that the house be demolished. In the face of 85% public support for the continued existence of the house, the courts refused to enforce any demolition order.

At the end of the three years, in 2007, it ended. China passed a landmark law which would protect private property. The couple, now satisfied that their steep demands had been met accepted an apartment of similar size nearby in Chongqing. The ‘nail house’ has since been destroyed.

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