Chinese man dismantles villa perched atop apartment block

BEIJING Fri Aug 16, 2013 5:49am EDT

Workers demolish parts of a privately built villa, surrounded by imitation rocks, on the rooftop of a 26-storey residential building in Beijing, August 15, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

Workers demolish parts of a privately built villa, surrounded by imitation rocks, on the rooftop of a 26-storey residential building in Beijing, August 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/China Daily

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BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese property owner has started dismantling an elaborate villa built illegally, complete with a garden, on top of a Beijing apartment block after complaints from his neighbors and a government warning to tear it down.

Aerial photos of the structure, perched on the roof of the 26-story block, near a lake and a busy highway, have been circulating on the Internet for the past week, causing an outcry from the block's residents and amazement at the audacious flouting of planning rules and norms.

On Monday, authorities demanded that Zhang Biqing, the villa's builder, demolish it within 15 days, calling it an illegal structure after residents complained to the local government.

Zhang, a wealthy medicine practitioner who also owns a penthouse in the building, pledged to dismantle the 800-square-metre structure after he was informed of the risks to the public by police and urban management authorities, state news agency Xinhua said.

The brazen structure was the latest example of the blatant disregard for the law among the rich, a source of discontent among many Chinese.

Residents living in the block told Reuters Television on Tuesday they were worried about the extra weight accumulating above their heads.

"Perhaps originally it was designed to withstand a certain weight, but now he has added so many things, it's not a question of a blade of grass," said Wen Tingshu, who lives on the 22nd floor. "If it collapses, nobody knows how many casualties it would cause."

Chen Yu, an official from Beijing's Haidian district city administration and law enforcement bureau, said on Tuesday the authorities would demolish the villa if Zhang did not take action.

"If Beijing experiences bad or extreme weather, it could be blown down or hit by lightning," Chen told reporters. "More importantly, it has infringed the rights of other residents who disliked having a building constructed on their rooftop."

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee and Sabrina Mao; Editing by Alison Williams)

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