'Friends in high places': Illegal rooftop temple prompts unholy ire in China

A privately built illegal temple-like structure is seen on the top of a 20-story residential block in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Thursday. Tyrone Siu / Reuters

An elaborate temple-like structure perched on an apartment block in southeastern China is an illegal hazard that should be torn down, residents say. But they may not be as lucky as opponents of a similar rooftop folly in Beijing that was built to resemble a mountain idyll.

The temple, in Shenzhen, is believed to have been on the roof for about seven years but complaints from its neighbors are in the spotlight after a case earlier his month in which a Beijing was given 15 days to demolish his 88,600-square-foot house and garden built illegally atop a 26-story apartment block.

Although the roof of the building in Shenzhen is supposed to be a public space, a fingerprint-activated lock stops others from accessing it, according to local media reports.

Chen Jiatao, chairman of the complex's housing management committee, said the temple's owner must resolve the matter by opening the space to other residents, but he seemed to hold out little hope.

"I once spoke with the past chairman, who was here for seven years," Chen told Reuters Television. "He said this to me: 'Oh my, don't you know? This person is an official, he has friends in high places.' So it's useless."

A temple is seen on the rooftop of a building in Shenzhen, China. The latest rooftop architectural wonder brings worshipers closer to the heavens. AFP - Getty Images

A disregard for laws and regulations by the rich and well-connected is a source of discontent among many Chinese.

The temple and inaccessible rooftop are also the subject of safety concerns. For residents on higher floors, the roof would be the main escape route in case of fire, while the added weight from the illegal structure could threaten the building's stability, media reports say.

Apartments in the building sell for around $4,900 per square meter and the rooftop itself is worth more than $2.45 million, according to the South China Morning Post.