I have gone to great lengths to cover social unrest in China, from striking factory workers in the southern city of Shenzhen to teachers’ protests in the north. Last month, for a change, I found myself in the middle of a “not in my backyard” protest in my residential compound in Beijing, pitting millionaire property owners against a gym owner and his staff. The Seasons Park uprising of July 2016 began with a social media chat group whose members called themselves the La Mas, or Spicy Mamas. For years the Spicy Mamas, many of them owners of flats worth more than $1m, obsessed over rich-people problems such as how much to pay the a’yis, or aunties, who clean their kitchens and raise their children. Then an entrepreneur tried to open a gym in our compound’s vacant clubhouse facility, which had been closed for almost two years. The residents cannot say they did not see it coming. The gym required a large investment and extensive refurbishment. And, even if we had missed all the building activity, every time we left or entered our compound we were assailed by touts trying to sell us memberships. But it was only after the gym formally opened in mid-July that the Spicy Mamas realised the consequences. It was a 24-hour operation, with staff and members coming and going at all times. Many of the physical trainers were tough, buff types with tattoos and smoking habits that required them to gather outside for regular cigarette breaks. How, the Spicy Mamas asked, could they guarantee their children’s safety with so many strangers loitering about? And who was going to clean up all the cigarette butts? Overnight, the Spicy Mamas discovered Nimby activism and rebranded their chat group as the United Residents of Seasons Park. Allied now with their husbands, who I like to think of as the Dad Bods, they set up watch patrols to harass gym staff and members as they “trespassed” across the compound. The residents hung two large banners, alleging that the gym was operating illegally and warning prospective members that they would lose their money if they signed up. The instructors, in turn, glowered back at the residents. Tempers soon flared between the two camps, which for me epitomised modern China’s haves and have-nots. As owners of flats in central Beijing, the Spicy Mamas and Dad Bods are some of the biggest winners in President Xi Jinping’s China. The surging property values of the past few years have made them very wealthy while pricing humble gym employees out of home ownership. I witnessed no violence but, after a few days the situation grew so heated that the police were called in, some of them in riot gear. The Spicy Mamas and Dad Bods threatened to escalate their protest if the gym continued to operate, and raised money to print additional 150 banners. I began to wonder if it would all spill on to the streets of our quiet neighbourhood. For the United Residents of Seasons Park, much was at stake. To say they are emblematic of the emerging middle class is to insult them. They are far richer than that. The car park is full of Mercedes, BMWs, Porsches, Range Rovers and the odd Bentley. The developer of our compound described it as the “home of tycoons”. These landlords’ properties are their castles and they will not tolerate anything that could reduce their value. In the end the 150 additional protest banners did not have to be deployed. The gym has shut, at least temporarily, and my neighbours are preparing to elect an owners’ association to protect their interests, something they now realise they should have done a long time ago. When I checked in with one of the Spicy Mamas recently for an update, she said she was a bit out of touch because she had taken her daughter to summer camp in Japan. She added: “Japan is great; orderly society, polite people.” Would she run for a seat on the owners’ association when she returned, I asked. To my surprise she said no. She and her family are instead planning to move to the US next year. “[We’re] really looking forward to living in an orderly society and safe environment,” she said.