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December 9, 2009

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Pitching a tent and a message

FOR the current generation of young men in China, it's a problem to find a wife without having an apartment.

What if you have a tent?

An unidentified man, in his 20s, erected a tent last Saturday in a Shanghai subway train and wore a white T-shirt bearing an advertisement for marriage.

The man's action, which passengers interpreted as a call for attention to soaring home prices in the city, was later stopped by a subway worker.

"If it's a joke, it's one that will make people think after laughter," said Xu Ruiyan, a passenger who took photos of the man and tent and posted them on the Internet.

Discussions about the young generation's living situation rose online after people saw the photos in a popular Internet forum.

Shanghai's new-home price on average reached a record high last week of 20,826 yuan (US$3,050) per square meter. Critics call that "irrational," given that locals' per capita disposable income last year was 26,690 yuan.

The man, boarding the Line 7 on Saturday, the line's first day in trial operation, said he earns 5,000 yuan a month but still cannot afford a new home in Shanghai, according to Xu.

Worse: He broke up with a woman who required an apartment for marriage.

His T-shirt read: "I am handsome as well as talented; I have no apartment but a brand new tent."

The man also posted two pieces of paper on the tent, which read: "The home price is too high and the girl's requirement is too high. I can have neither of them."

And: "I do not want to be deprived of the right to marriage because I have no apartment."

He acted rather "calm" when setting up the tent and taking off his jacket to show the T-shirt inside, said Xu.

When a red-suited Metro worker appeared in the carriage, the man packed the tent and left at a station.

Opinion about the man's action was mixed, with one critic accusing him of "putting on a show to get public sensation." Others thought he effectively lampooned the city's high housing market.

"Life is not easy for those young nowadays," said a subway passenger.

"The pressure of living in the metropolis is always high," said another.

It's not the first time that subway passengers have seen fascinating characters, such as people dressed as deer, mummy or Superman.

Subway police said yesterday that they had not heard of the activity but said such stunts are not encouraged.


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