Villa reopens under ongoing doubts

08:30, February 24, 2011      

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A once well-known luxury villa floating on the sea near Shenzhen will reopen soon as a fishing business, even though it was only recently scheduled to be demolished following revelations that the developer of the project had not obtained required licensing.

The twist in the villa's fate caught many by surprise. Rarely had the city's oceanic supervision authority changed its mind in so short a period.

The villa was built in 2003 by Guo Kuizhang, a businessman who has invested his money heavily in real estate. Costing almost 100 million yuan ($15 million), it sits on top of fishing rafts in Dongshan Bay at Nan'ao, in eastern Shenzhen.

The structure is held in place by 39 anchors, each weighing 1,000 kilograms, and supported by more than 3,000 foam cushions, allowing it to stay on the sea like an island regardless of the water's ebb and flow.

Before being ordered to close down last year, the villa was a luxury venue where the rich would hold private parties. It included a racing court and Southeast Asian-style gardens.

In 2005, local authorities began a preliminary investigation in response to claims that the villa had not obtained necessary licensing, although that round of scrutiny never reached a formal conclusion.

Further investigations were launched into the villa's operation in January last year. They concluded that, without the necessary official approvals, the project was an illegal construction on the sea. In May, a Shenzhen court ordered that the villa be dismantled.

But months later, a large part of the villa remains on the sea. Representatives say they have acquired the licenses needed to conduct sea-farming and leisure fishing businesses there.

Speaking on the phone, Wang Airan, an official with the oceanic supervision authority in Shenzhen's Longgang district, confirmed the information to China Daily on Wednesday.

"The villa has passed our assessment and is now approved to open soon," Wang said.

She said the owners of the villa received a license in December to run a sea-farming business. The absence of such a enterprise in the past was part of what caused the operation to be suspended.

Wang said the villa has also vacated a 3,000-square-meter area it once illegally occupied on the sea, removing another reason for the suspension.

Guo Kuizhang, the owner of the villa, has paid 447,700 yuan ($67,000) in penalties, which were imposed on him in the past year.

He has also acquiesced to the authority's requirement that the villa be opened to the public as a sea-farming and casual fishing base, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily.

But Beijing Times reported on Wednesday that the villa has already reopened and is refusing to give admission to the public. The newspaper reported that the villa only allows acquaintances or the boss's friends in, at a cost of $500 a day.

The twist has raised public suspicions that there might be a string-puller behind the scenes of the villa, putting up obstacles to the enforcement of the court ruling.

Online posts said the oceanic supervision authority has "slapped itself in the face" by issuing the license to the villa and letting it reopen.

By Qiu Bo, China Daily
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