Chinese bank depositors face police in angry protests

BEIJING – A large number of angry Chinese bank depositors met with the police on Sunday, some became rude when they were taken away, in a case that has attracted attention due to previous attempts to use a COVID-19 tracking app to prevent them from mobilizing.

Hundreds of people held up banners and sang slogans on the wide steps of the entrance to a branch of China’s central bank in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan Province, about 620 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Video taken by a protester shows plainclothes security teams being thrown with water bottles and other objects while attacking the crowd.

Later videos posted on social media show an unclear number of protesters being pushed forward individually and down stairs by security teams dressed in solid white or black T-shirts. Phone calls to police in the city of Zhengzhou and Henan province rang unanswered.

The protesters are among thousands of customers who opened accounts in six rural banks in Henan and neighboring Anhui province that offered higher interest rates. They later found out that they could not withdraw their money after media reports that the head of the banks’ parent company was on the run and wanted for financial crime.

“We came today and wanted to get our savings back, because I have elderly people and children at home, and the inability to withdraw savings has seriously affected my life,” said a woman from Shandong Province, who only gave her last name. , Zhang, for fear of retaliation.

What had been a local scandal became a national event last month due to misuse of the COVID-19 tracking app. Many who traveled to Zhengzhou to demand action from regulators found that their health status on the app had turned red, preventing them from traveling. Some reported that they were questioned by the police after checking into their hotel as to why they had come to the city. Five Zhengzhou officials were later punished.

The protesters gathered before dawn on Sunday in front of the People’s Bank of China building in Zhengzhou. Police cars with flashing lights can be seen in videos taken in the early morning darkness. Police closed the street, and by 8 a.m., police had begun gathering on the other side, Zhang said.

Besides uniformed police, there were the teams of men in plain T-shirts. A bank regulator and a local government official arrived, but their attempt to talk to the crowd was called down. Zhang and another protester, a man from Beijing with the surname Yang, told the AP that the protesters had heard from officials before and did not believe what they were saying. Yang refused to be identified by his full name, for fear of pressure from the authorities.

Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Around 10 o’clock, the men stormed in t-shirts with the audience and scattered them. Zhang said she saw women dragging down the stairs to the bank entrance.

Zhang herself was hit, and said she asked the officer, “Why did you hit me?” According to her, he replied, “What’s wrong with hitting you?”

Yang said he was hit by two security officers, including one who had fallen down the stairs and mistakenly believed in the chaos that Yang had hit or pushed him.

“Although repeated protests and demonstrations do not necessarily have a big impact, I think it is still useful if more people get to know us and understand or sympathize with us,” Yang said. “Every time you do that, you can make a difference. Even if you want to be hit, they can not really do anything to you, can they? “

The protesters were bussed to various locations where Zhang said they were forced to sign a letter guaranteeing that they would no longer gather.

Late Sunday, Henan bank regulators posted a brief notice on their website saying they were speeding up the verification of customer funds in four of the banks and the formulation of a plan to resolve the situation to protect the rights and interests of the public.