Fake mountain villa in China: How did illegal construction go up on high-rise?

(CBS News) In Beijing, a man built a fake mountain on top of an apartment building. It took him six years and he didn't have single permit. Now he's supposed to tear it down. The illegal construction it appears takes more than money -- it takes connections.

There are rooftop gardens, and then, there are rooftop mountains -- at least in one part of Beijing. An illegally built two-story "mountainscape" and villa is perched on top of a 26-story apartment building in the city. The details, as seen from a neighboring skyscraper, include ladders, walkways, and dangling foliage.

CBS News tried to find its owner, Zhang Biqing -- a well-to-do practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.

China medicine mogul ordered to tear down luxury villa he built illegally on top of high-rise

CBS News' Seth Doane knocked on his door, where a sign dated Aug. 12 reads that he must tear down the 800-square-meter, 8,600-square-feet, illegal construction within 15 days. That couldn't come soon enough for some neighbors.

"We've always heard noise from upstairs," Mr. Li, a neighbor, told CBS News. "It was loud indeed."

Another resident, Mr. Liu, said he heard drilling sounds from decorating. "Sometimes you can see decoration materials in the elevator," he said. "He shouldn't be able to do that."


CBS News' Seth Doane reported, "We've climbed up the stairs from the 26th floor -- right below this mountainscape - and this is what we've found -- trees, tree stumps, and fake branches."

The owner of this villa-in-the-sky was once a member of a local advisory board to the ruling Communist Party. Residents said it was an example of the powerful playing by different rules.

It's also a mountain-sized example of illegal construction, though hardly the only one. An extra floor was built on top of a building in northeastern China in 2011. Another home was illegally constructed under a bridge in southern China in the mid-90s.

Local officials in charge of building regulations in Beijing said they'd spent six years trying to contact the owner the faux-mountain. Though, demolition orders appeared to be fast-tracked after pictures went viral over the weekend.

China's state television and local media have reported that the owner says he'll tear down his fake mountain, thus returning the Beijing rooftop to its "natural," though far less noteworthy, state.

Watch Seth Doane's full report above.

Comments