Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third leadership term at the 20th Communist Party Congress later this year, which means the country’s stability is of the utmost importance going into the meeting. The country is, however, currently far from stable
What’s happening there?
You can imagine the country’s displeasure when protests erupted over money that’s been invested into apartment homes that have yet to be finished. It ramped up on Wednesday when about 200 people gathered in front of the Hubei office of China’s banking and insurance regulator. The project was developed by Greenland Holdings Corp., a state-backed developer that presold the apartments last year and had committed to delivering them by the end of 2022.
What do the protesters want?
The home buyers said construction has stalled for the last nine months, inspiring the people to protest, chanting, “Construction stops and mortgage stops! Deliver homes and get repaid!” The regulator coordinated a meeting between some of the homebuyers and representatives of four large state-owned banks. Those who purchased homes asked to suspend their mortgage payments until their homes were delivered, but the representatives merely promised to take the message back to their bosses, with no promises being made.
How does this affect the scheduled Congress and Xi Jinping?
Situations like this have cropped up all across the country, including in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, where developers such as China Evergrande Group and China Aoyuan Group are struggling to complete their housing projects as homebuyers threaten to stop paying their mortgages entirely. Amidst the turmoil, the Chinese government is doing its best to paint a rosier picture, sending its censors scrambling to erase videos of the demonstrations, keywords related to the mortgage boycott, and social media posts in support of the protesters.
Chinese social media companies are subject to strict laws requiring them to censor content that “undermines social stability” or is critical of the central government. Meanwhile, regulators and local governments are frantically assuring everyone that they’ll be taken care of, but this seems to be a rare wildfire of public outcry that China has been unable to suppress.