Inside Malaysia’s Chinese-built ‘ghost city’ residents are escaping from

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Residents of a Chinese-built “ghost city” have said it was so bad they were willing to forfeit deposits and escaped as they warned of the “eerie” atmosphere.

The city that aspired to be an “eco-friendly” metropolis has caught the attention of many as it now sits as an abandoned facade its residents never want to return to.

Forest City was one of countless mega-projects produced by China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It was built on reclaimed land near Johor Bahru on the southern tip of Malaysia, back in 2016.

This was a sweeping £78 billion global infrastructure programme by the Chinese government to invest huge amounts of money into the building projects.

A former resident, Nazmi Hanafiah, a 30-year-old IT engineer, told the BBC his dream move into the seemingly utopic city quickly turned on its head. Within six months, he “had to get out” and was willing to forfeit his deposit.

While the project was set out to provide homes for middle-class people, it is out of budget for an average Malaysian, with a whopping average $1.14million price tag on each condo.

This is a stark jump from the $141,000 average sale price of property in Johor Bahru. As a result, much of the city remains vacant and unattainable.

Currently, only 15 percent of the project has been completed, and some estimates claim only one percent of it is actually occupied.

Despite this, builder Country Garden – China’s largest property developer – remains “optimistic” that their plan would be completed, according to the BBC.

It sits miles from its nearest major city, earning its nickname “Ghost City”. Nazmi described having “high expectations” for Forest City, but said in reality it was “creepy” and that there was nothing to do there.

The overly ambitious property is littered with billboards of large developments – including a sales gallery, an international school, resorts, and luxurious high-rise flats.

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Nearby, there are no signs of life on the playground on the deserted beach. Hardly a surprise as an apparent sign by the water warns of not swimming in the sea because of crocodiles.

Next to an empty shopping mall is a Country Garden showroom showcasing a huge model of what the city should look like. A couple of employees remain on post with a sign above them that says: ‘Forest City: Where Happiness Never Ends’.

In reality, residents say Forest City has an ever-looming darkness that hangs above it.

Joanne Kaur, told the BBC: “This place is eerie. Even during the day, when you step out of your front door, the corridor is dark.

“I feel sorry for people who actually invested and bought a place here. We are looking to move out as soon as possible.”

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