News roundup: A small victory for Chinese homeowners

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Top China news for December 23, 2016. Get this daily digest delivered to your inbox by signing up at


A significant signal for homeowners in China

There is no freehold in China: The state owns all the land. When people buy an apartment or house, they are purchasing a lease, often with a period of 70 years but in some cases as little as 20 years. The government has never clarified what will happen when that lease expires. Because the commercial real estate market began in the 1990s, some homeowners are now facing this problem head on. In April this year, local authorities in the prosperous port city of Wenzhou told some homeowners — as they tried to sell their apartments — that they would first have to pay fees of up to a third of the value of their apartments to extend their 20-year leases. The Wall Street Journal reported that at the time, there were “angry protests on Chinese social media about the lack of clarity” of the rules.

Today brings news of an important settlement of the case. Dow Jones reports that “the Ministry of Land and Resources decided that the affected Wenzhou homeowners wouldn’t have to pay the fee, according to a briefing transcript citing Vice Minister Wang Guanghua posted Friday on the ministry’s website.” Wang said that there were “two no’s” for affected homeowners: no need to fill out any new paperwork, and no need to pay any fees. Authorities are calling the decision “transitional,” but many observers are hoping it will set a precedent. “Nobody is a passive observer in this case,” said “Stock Market Baldy,” a popular financial commentator on Chinese social media. He adds that “the settlement of the Wenzhou property rights case might be a classic reference for other cities.”

There has not yet been much English reporting on the Wenzhou announcement. You can find further information in Chinese at Caixin; the transcript of Vice Minister Wang Guanghua’s announcement is here; and Stock Market Baldy’s comments are on Weibo.

On SupChina: The Buddhist cave temples of Dunhuang, along the ancient Silk Road

Today on SupChina, we publish a brief history and travel guide to the north-central outpost of Dunhuang, written by France Pepper of China Insider.

In case you missed them, this week we also published a list of the top 10 internet and media buzzwords in China in 2016; the second part of our Sinica Podcast interview with John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, together with an excerpt from his book; and a Q&A with Chinese concert pianist Yundi.

A shortened — due to the holidays — list of more China news worth reading is linked below, with the more important stories at the top of each section.