Sinkhole at China lawmaker's home reveals deep disregard for the law in China

This photo taken on the morning of Saturday, Jan 24, 2015, shows a big hole on a street in Beijing's Xicheng district. The hole has since been filled in with 1,400 cu m of concrete. -- PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
This photo taken on the morning of Saturday, Jan 24, 2015, shows a big hole on a street in Beijing's Xicheng district. The hole has since been filled in with 1,400 cu m of concrete. -- PHOTO: CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The residents of Beijing are no strangers to sinkholes.

They have seen sinkholes resulting from the construction of subways, the collapse of underground infrastructure, even inexplicable natural phenomena.

Yet none of them had been like this one caused by an illicit building project under the home - a home away from home, to be precise - of a lawmaker from Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, East China.

The 15m-by-5m and 10m-deep hole caused the collapse of the proprietor's own quadrangle as well as part of another next to it on Tuesday. Fifteen households had to be evacuated due to safety considerations.

The accident temporarily halted public transport and water supply along a historical street in uptown Beijing, all because the moneyed entrepreneur lawmaker wanted to dig an 18m-deep, five-level basement under his Beijing home.

Historical courtyards, mostly old quadrangles, in the historical districts of Beijing are subject to strict government protection. Part of the proprietor's home is under grade-II protection according to Beijing's regulations. Which means all building projects related to it must be approved by the relevant authorities.

The lawmaker has not consulted them. Not because he was not aware of the need. His 2010 attempt to renovate the property was stopped by the district authorities, and he was fined.

Last July, the authorities again summoned the owner, ordering him to stop the new basement project, which he had started without approval. Again, he was fined.

This lawmaker from Xuzhou is reminding us, again, of exemplary lawlessness.

We are curious what has motivated him to openly ignore an explicit local legislation. We are ashamed to be talking about a lawmaker's disregard of the law. We have no idea what has brought him the seat on the local legislature.

But more likely than not, it was money.

In fairness to the lawmaker, he should not be the only one blamed. His project has proceeded for a while. And the urban management authorities have received repeated complaints from the lawmaker's neighbors. Even without those reports, signs of building activities have been obvious at the site.

Strangely, the urban management officers, who are infamous for treating helpless street vendors with unnecessary force, have appeared forceless throughout. We just wonder why they have been so unlike themselves in this case.