Chinese social media users on Sunday angrily criticised a Shanghai government crackdown on unauthorised real estate activity after images emerged online showing an apparent protest in the city over the restrictions.

Pictures and video have circulated showing hundreds of people engaged in a tense stand-off with police, said to have taken place late Saturday night in a busy central Shanghai shopping district.

Photo: Weibo.

AFP was not able to confirm the online accounts of the demonstration or obtain comment from the city government.

But authorities in the city, China’s financial hub, have stoked anger among investors and homeowners with a new campaign launched last month to rein in the use of commercial-zoned real estate for residential purposes.

Videos posted online showed a noisy crowd in excess of 1,000 people confronted by police, who had erected cordons to block their march on busy Nanjing East Road.

At least two people were seen being roughly dragged away by police.

“An oppressive government drives the people to rebellion. The poor masses!” said one of many outraged postings on Weibo, China’s tightly controlled answer to Twitter.

“Once again, the government is doing things without considering the stance of the masses,” said another.

Others accused censors of deleting their posts about the incident to whitewash it.

“Weibo’s staff are so efficient! The videos from Nanjing East Road have all been rendered harmonious,” said a Weibo post in a dig at the ruling Communist Party, which frequently cites maintenance of social “harmony” as justification for snuffing out public protests.

The central government has taken a number of measures to cool down red-hot real estate markets amid fears of a potential crash that could affect the broader economy, which is already slowing.

There has been a wave of commercial land being developed for residential purposes, a strategy that has thrived due to ambiguities in regulations.

But authorities launched a sudden crackdown, imperilling real estate projects that had been allowed to proceed, angering homeowners, developers and investors.

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