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The Craziest Way to Fight Developers Trying to Seize Your Home

The tricky legalities of economic development become even trickier when you try to seize the home of a martial arts champion.

Dan Lewis, author of the daily newsletter Now I Know (“Learn Something New Every Day, By Email”) joins us Wednesdays with surprising facts about the world of business.

In 2005, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Kelo v. City of New London. The city was attempting to use its powers under the Fifth Amendment to take (with compensation) the homes of Suzette Kelo, the plaintiff, and others and turn their land into an economic development area—much of which would be owned by the Pfizer Corporation. In a controversial 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held in favor of the city.

In 2004, when local developers in Chongqing, China came for the house of Yang Wu and his wife, Wu Ping, they, like Ms. Kelo, refused to move. But unlike Ms. Kelo, the Chinese couple came up with a much more aggressive solution: break into their condemned house and refuse to leave.

With their power and water cut off and their house surrounded on all sides by a 10-meter-deep man-made dry moat, Yang and Wu needed to do the seemingly impossible to prevent demolition. Yang, a local martial arts champion, built a staircase to their home using his nunchucks—and acted as one-man security team over the disputed home. Wu (pictured here) took to the airwaves, becoming a local television celebrity by shedding light on the couple’s battle against the government and developers.

After a three-year struggle, the couple settled with the developers. The couple received a new apartment in downtown Chongqing and an undisclosed lump sum payment, exceeding the equivalent of $500,000. The home, pictured above and here, was demolished in 2007.

Bonus fact: While Suzette Kelo lost at the Supreme Court, she probably got the last laugh. The city of New London paid $442,000 for her house, and the developer of the would-be “economic development area” ended up running out of money. The area in question is now abandoned.

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Photo courtesy of Dan Lewis.

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