07/11/2022, 15.48
CHINA
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Police in Zhengzhou beat up defrauded depositors demanding their savings

by John Ai

The situation has been dragging on for some time due to a scam worth US$ 6 billion. Plainclothes agents indiscriminately attacked the victims. Footage of the incident was censored on social media. At least 4,000 small Chinese banks have an opaque structure.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of depositors gathered on Sunday in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, to demand they be allowed to withdraw their savings from local banks in crisis, but faced plainclothes agents who violently attacked them, with some suffering injuries and dragged away.

Yesterday’s violent clash took place outside the office of the People's Bank of China, the country’s central bank. Hundreds of people gathered early in the morning chanting slogans like “Henan banks, return my savings, displaying banners that accused the authorities of violence, and calling for human rights and the rule of law.

Since April, depositors at henna least four Henan banks have discovered that their bank accounts had been frozen and access to online banking services shut down.

In June, the authorities used the COVID-19 tracking application to restrict the freedom of movement of customers of these financial institutions, thus preventing them from submitting petitions and staging protests.

The abusive use of health measures for social control has sparked widespread criticism. However, surveillance of bank victims is still ongoing with depositors getting calls and warnings from local police.

Against last month, police reportedly dispersed protesters by force, dragging some away. The sound of a warning ostensibly shot fired by police could be heard on a video posted online.

The clash over the weekend was more intense. The authorities boosted security at locations where protesters gathered. Reuters quoted one protester as saying that security personnel were three-fold that of protesters and that he was dragged away by police.

In addition to uniformed police, some online videos show unidentified plainclothes men rushing into the crowd to disperse protesters who responded by throwing water bottles.

Security agents in white shirts and black pants indiscriminately attacked those present. Some protesters were beaten, resulting in injuries to the face.

Henan authorities did not respond to the media's request for information. Pictures and videos of the violent clashes were censored on Chinese social media.

According to Chinese newspapers, an estimated 400,000 depositors have money in the banks in question with nearly 40 billion yuan (US$ 6 billion) in savings.

Authorities have cracked down on unregulated "shadow banking”, which provides off-the-book loans.

Some 4,000 small banks operate across China but many of them have opaque ownership and their governance structures are more vulnerable to corruption and runs.

In 2019, the authorities took over the Baoshang Bank, the first seizure by banking regulators in two decades. At least five small banks have been hit by financial distress and anti-corruption investigations.

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