Published January 30, 2010

Westerners-only rule at Chengdu property draws flak

Chinese residents criticise the development as racist


A PROPERTY developer in China is inviting only 'Western-looking' foreigners to live in a new development, sparking comparisons with the controversial concession areas in the 1800s, state media said yesterday.

Ethnic Chinese - even foreign passport holders - will not be welcomed to rent apartments in the Tianfu International Community in the south-western city of Chengdu, the Global Times reported.

The ban on Chinese tenants was necessary to maintain the 'purity' of the international community, an employee surnamed Wang in the marketing department of the Chengdu Hi-Tech Investment Group was quoted as saying.

Chengdu Hi-Tech Investment is the parent of Chengdu Hi-Tech Properties, one of the developers involved in the controversial project.

AFP calls to the developer went unanswered.

'The foreigners we are talking about are those Western-looking people. We want to ensure that the international community is pure,' Mr Wang said. 'Others may be welcomed later.'

The first phase of the development will be finished in October. Once completed it will be able to accommodate 5,000 people and will have a church, schools, hospital and playgrounds, the paper said.

Zheng Xiaoming, head of the planning and construction bureau of the Chengdu National Hi-Tech Zone, told the China Daily the foreigners-only rule was to ensure the community was 'truly international'.

'No residence will be sold to locals. Instead they will be rented out exclusively to people from overseas,' said Mr Zheng.

The development has been criticised by Chinese residents in Chengdu and web users.

They say it is racist and reminiscent of the foreign concession territories created in several Chinese cities after it lost the Opium Wars in the mid-1800s and regarded as one of the most powerful symbols of Western colonialism.

'I think they are practising racial segregation by keeping out Chinese,' Gao Song was quoted by the Global Times as saying.

The China Daily quoted a web user named The Fourth Brother as saying: 'I cannot help but think of the time when China was weak and invaded by foreign powers.

'Only at that time were there communities where the Chinese were not allowed.' -- AFP