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Tianjin court halts auction of 'Porcelain House'

China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-07 10:18

A court in Tianjin ordered stop to the auction of a landmark property heavily decorated with pieces of porcelain– which was due on Tuesday – on concerns that the house may have historic significance, according to a statement released on Sunday on the court's Sina Weibo account.

The People's Court of Dongli District in Tianjin seized the property this year and announced a public sale after the property's owner Zhang Lianzhi defaulted on a loan provided by Xinze, a local credit company.

The lender said Zhang owed 100 million yuan ($14.9 million) to the company, Beijing News reported. But the owner — who was detained three times over the dispute since last summer — told China Daily that the sum was closer to 58 million yuan.

The court previously planned to do the public sale on July 22, but it was postponed for 17 days and was stopped on Sunday.

The statement released by the court said it has received reports that the porcelain house, a diplomatic residence in the 1920s and 1930s, was listed among "historic buildings".

The owner, who purchased the house in 2002 and spent a decade transforming it using tons of multicolored porcelain shards without approval from authorities, is suspected of violating local regulations on cultural relic's preservation, the court said.

The court halted the auction because the reports need to be verified and it needs to wait for the directions from related authorities, according to the statement.

Wang Dianxue, the owner's attorney, told China Daily in an earlier interview that he has filed an appeal with the court to postpone the auction.

The porcelain house, while popular with visitors and Tianjin's tourist industry, has long been controversial among heritage experts.

Under regulations issued in 2005 by the municipal government, buildings listed as major protection sites — which the house is — cannot be restructured or redesigned.

However, Zhang argued that when he bought the building it was in a dangerous condition. He said the porcelain and some concrete work had helped reinforce the structure.

There was also a dispute over the auction reserve price, which was set at 140 million yuan by the court.

Yet according to Guohongxin, an appraisal company commissioned by Zhang, the estimated market value of the property was more than 9.8 billion yuan, with most of that coming from the value of the porcelain.

Li Lei contributed to this story.

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