Man in coma after brawl over flats in China: report

A man was left in a coma after a brawl among hundreds of homebuyers queuing up to buy cut-rate flats in eastern China, state media said Monday, highlighting growing anxiety about high property prices.

The fight broke out at the opening of a residential development in Hangzhou city on Saturday after prospective buyers accused the developer of unfairly distributing the flats, which had been allocated via a lottery-style system.

One man was taken to hospital after he was beaten and left in a coma, the China Daily said, citing local police.

Nearly 450 apartments went on sale for an average price of 8,000 yuan (ê1,200) per square metre, which the report said was "relatively inexpensive" for the city.

Similar incidents have occurred across the country, it said, highlighting the growing concerns among house hunters as property prices continue to climb out of the reach of many ordinary Chinese people.

Stability-obsessed leaders have tried to keep a lid on prices through a range of measures such as hiking minimum down-payments on all property transactions to at least 30 percent, and raising interest rates twice in less than three months.

Authorities have also ordered banks to increase the amount of money they must keep in reserve -- effectively limiting the amount of money they can lend -- six times last year.

The government meanwhile has given the green light to Shanghai and the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing to levy a property tax in their red-hot residential markets as early as the first quarter, state media said.

Prices remain stubbornly high thanks to still very low interest rates and rampant bank lending, which reached 7.45 trillion yuan for the first 11 months of 2010, just shy of the government's full-year target of 7.5 trillion yuan.

In November, prices in 70 major cities were up 0.3 percent from October -- their third straight month-on-month rise -- and were 7.7 percent higher than a year ago, official data showed.

The value of land sales also soared about 70 percent on year in 2010 to 2.7 trillion yuan, the land and resources ministry said last week, warning that increased supervision of land usage was needed to ensure social stability, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Land disputes are the most volatile social problem in rural China as forced official property seizures trigger growing unrest, according to a report by the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Fights over land accounted for 65 percent of rural "mass conflicts", which the government fears threaten to undermine the country's stability and economic development, the CASS study said.

 

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