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A standoff between local authorities in Zhejiang province and an elderly couple who refuse to leave their home to make way for a new road, is now into its fourth year with officials becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of the building.
With two wings of the five-floor block of flats in which they live already demolished, the refusal of Luo Baogen, 67, and his 65-year-old wife is also causing mixed feelings among fellow residents of Xiayangzhang village, who claim they are now standing in the way of progress.
Part of a residential building stands in the middle of a road yet to be officially used in Wenling, Zhejiang province, on Thursday. Its residents have failed to reach an agreement with the government over compensation they should receive for the building's demolition. Jin Yunguo / for China Daily
The couple used to share 10 rooms in the building with their son, but the isolated structure stands right in the path of a new road being built to the railway station at Wenling.
Experts say the two remaining residents, who failed to reach agreement with government officials over compensation, have the legal right to stay put, unless they get what they are seeking.
In 2008, more than 500 families in the village began relocating to make way for the planned road. But the couple refused to sign a contract because of the unsatisfactory compensation.
"The government's compensation is only 260,000 yuan ($41,700) - not enough to cover the expense of building another house in the village," Luo said.
Lin Xufang, deputy chief of Daxi township, who is in charge of demolition, confirmed the compensation amounts involved.
"The average compensation for houses is 330 yuan a square meter," Lin said, adding the figure is 30 yuan higher than the standard set by the city government.
"It's not fair to other families, if we meet Luo's demands. All the compensations were fixed, based on the same standard," he said.
Officials have visited Luo's family frequently since last winter, to try and convince them to persuade he and his wife to leave "because the construction cannot be postponed any longer" the official added.
The station to be linked by the new road, has now been in operation for three years.
If the standoff continues, Lin said there would be no choice but to build the road around his house. To guarantee safety, the rooms immediately surrounding theirs have been spared demolition.
But with none of their neighbors left and their son gone too, Luo says the roof leaks after the wings were knocked down.
Shen Kui, a law professor at Peking University, said the government's move to build the road is not illegal.
"The road is part of the infrastructure. The government has to take appropriate measures to carry out its duty to provide public services and infrastructure," he said.
But he added, that the elderly couple also have rights to guarantee their own living standards in the future.
"The root cause of the problem is that the compensation standard set for confiscating collectively-owned lands is too low," he said, suggesting it's time now to revise the levels of compensation, given the frequency of such cases, especially in rural areas.
One of the highest profile cases involved two brothers in Beijing in 2002, who refused to move out of their home because the compensation level didn't match their expectations in the Chaoyang district of the city.
Their 500 sq m house also stood in the way of plans to build a road, forcing the government to build a smaller road, which subsequently caused severe traffic jams.
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