The Cost of Business in Shenzhen

A translation of a 天涯深圳网 post, this time about a woman boss who set herself on fire to protest having her rental property revoked (罗湖文锦广场物管收回物业女老板自焚).

A Woman Boss sets herself on fire after the luohu wenjin plaza Property Management revokes her property by Nanfang Reporter, Feng Lei (南都记者丰雷 — 南方都市报)

Yesterday afternoon (January 12, 2012), Ms. Zou of Eastern Fengming Children’s Training, which is located on the 4th Floor, Building A of Luohu Wenjin Plaza set herself on fire to protest that the Plaza’s Property Management Firm had suddenly ended her rental contract, leaving her with over 2 million investment that cannot be recovered. At the moment of crisis, the Tianbei Fire Department and Plaza Management Firm came. According to the Management Firm, the contract stated that when the property owner needed to reclaim the property, then the renter would have to leave. According to Ms. Zou, the Property Management Firm was not the property owner and therefore has no right to evict her from the premiss.

The Woman Boss Locks the Door and Splashes Gasoline

“There’s a problem. My Boss has locked herself in a room and splashed gasoline, intending to self-immolate,” Eastern Fengming employee, Chen Lele desperately called in. She had just arrived at the company and smelled the gasoline, but when she pushed the door she found it locked. Inside, Ms. Zou was crying, “Property management is merciless. There’s no way to get my 2 million investment back and so I’m setting myself on fire.” Chen Lele immediately went downstairs to find Property Management staff and call the police emergency number.

On receiving a tip, this Nanfang reporter went to the scene where he say that the Tianbei Fire brigade had already arrived. Over ten firemen went into the building to save Ms. Zou. Representatives from the Wenjin Plaza Property Management Firm, Huajiahong also went in to help. Eastern Fengming is on the fourth floor, the glass door had been locked and the strong sent of gasoline drifted out. A woman wearing yellow clothes lay in the middle of the gasoline and refused to open the door.

Policemen Prevent Reporter from Conducting Interviews

Although the fourth floor was not locked, nevertheless Officer 058724 of the Cuizhu Precinct, Luohu District Police Force repeatedly interrupted Nanfang Daily reporter’s efforts to conduct interviews, telling Chen Lele not to speak with the reporter and instructing street police to hustle the reporter away from the scene. Upon seeing that the street police weren’t obeying him, the Cuizhu police officer became angry and screamed, causing Ms. Zou to become even more emotional inside the room. At this moment, the firemen broke the door open. Ms. Zou immediately ran into an office to commit suicide. The firemen rushed in after her to convince her not to commit suicide. However, Officer 058724  ignored Ms. Zou, instead focusing his attention on this reporter.

The sent of gasoline still filled Eastern Fengming and the firefighters worried that a spark might detonate the building. About 10 minutes later, the firemen found a porridge can that was filled with gasoline. The firemen confirmed that gasoline had been poured into a sink. On further investigation, there was no leaking gas and that the dangerous situation had passed. In addition, according to a fireman, Ms. Zou had stopped crying. The firemen left carrying the porridge can of gasoline.

Property Conflicts led to “Self-immolation”

Ms. Zou explained that in 2009 she and Huajiahong Property Management signed a contract. Based on the terms of the contract, she invested 2 million in interior design. However, several days ago, the Property Management decided to break the contract in order to rent the fourth floor to a Hotel chain, requiring her to move out by January 20. However, she had only been working for a little over two years and had yet to earn back her capital investment. The Property Management Firm’s decision to unilaterally break the contract meant that she had no way to recover her losses. She repeatedly tried to negotiate with them, but in vain. Consequently, she had walked to the end of the line and could only commit suicide (走投无路、万念俱灰,只好自焚).

Property Management spokesperson Mr. Lei said that according to the contract, whenever the was a change of ownership or the property owner revoked a premiss, the entire contract ended. The rented was required to evacuate the premiss. As the Property Management was revoking the premiss, Ms. Zou should immediately leave. However, not only did Ms. Zou refuse to leave, she also tried to set herself on fire.

Ms. Zou said, “How could I have known the Property Management Firm was so evil; I’ve been swindled. The property rights to the fourth floor don’t belong to the Property Management company, so whatever the contract was based on, the contract is void. Moreover, when we signed the contract, the Property Management firm said it was for five years. But today they say I have to leave. Their word is worthless. It was only when forced to evacuate the fourth floor that I realized how I had been swindled, What’s more, the Property Management company hasn’t offered any compensation.

Huajiahong Property Management spokesman, Mr. Lei said that the fourth floor didn’t belong to the company, but the property owner had hired the Huajiahong to manage it, even signing a power of attorney letter. Thus, the Firm had the authority to rent and revoke property rights according to the contract. However, when the Nanfang Daily reporter asked to see the contract, Mr. Lei used the excuse corporate secret to refuse permission. Ms. Zou said that if it was time to move, the Property Management firm should have offered compensation, otherwise she would not leave the premiss.

Postscript. As I was reading this article, I realized that it echoes rumors about the Urban Management Bureau (城管). Specifically, many complain that City Maintenance hires former soldiers, who are less educated and more prone to violence than other members of the Municipal Administration. As a consequence, they tend to usurp rights that they don’t actually have, deciding which hawkers can stay or go, for example. Likewise, Property Management Companies often hire “enforcers”, who need to be appeased in order for a business to run smoothly.

One thought on “The Cost of Business in Shenzhen

  1. Pingback: even maoist spaces crumble and fade… | Shenzhen Noted

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