The latest example of a “nail house” in western China has reduced a multi-lane highway in the capital of Sichuan province to just a single line of traffic.

Chengdu nail house. Photo: Sina.
Chengdu nail house. Photo: Sina.

Nail houses – isolated holdouts whose owners refuse to accept compensation from developers – have become a divisive issue in Chinese media.

Online, commentators line up to either praise the bravery and tenacity of defiant home-owners or to censure their avarice and stubborn disregard for the greater good.

Chengdu nail house. Photo: Sina.
Chengdu nail house. Photo: Sina.

Circumstances vary between different nail houses and few news stories provide enough details to make an informed judgement on individual cases.

One web user hit the nail on the head when he observed, “Editor, you say every time that nail houses aren’t right, but why won’t you write what their reasons are?”

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others