Chinese bank depositors clash with police in angry protest

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big crowd angry Chinese bank depositors clashed with police on Sunday, some of them beaten as they were taken away, in a case that drew attention due to earlier attempts to use a COVID-19 tracking app to prevent them from mobilizing.

Hundreds of people held banners and chanted slogans on the wide steps of the entrance to a branch of China’s Central Bank in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, about 620 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Video filmed by a protester shows plainclothes security teams pelting water bottles and other items as they attack the crowd.

Then videos posted on social media show an unclear number of protesters being pushed individually and down stairs by security teams dressed in plain white or black T-shirts. Phone calls to police in Zhengzhou City and Henan Province go unanswered.

The protesters are among the thousands of customers who opened accounts at six rural banks in Henan and neighboring Anhui provinces that offered higher interest rates. They later found themselves unable to withdraw their funds following media reports that the head of the bank’s parent company was on the run and wanted for financial crimes.

In this photo posted by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people hold banners and chant slogans as they protest at the entrance of China's central bank branch in Zhengzhou, in central China's Henan province.  Hundreds of people held banners and chanted slogans on the wide steps of the entrance to a branch of China's Central Bank in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, about 620 kilometers southwest of Beijing.  Video filmed by a protester shows plainclothes security teams pelting water bottles and other items as they attack the crowd.

In this photo posted by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people hold banners and chant slogans as they protest at the entrance of China’s central bank branch in Zhengzhou, in central China’s Henan province. Hundreds of people held banners and chanted slogans on the wide steps of the entrance to a branch of China’s Central Bank in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, about 620 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Video filmed by a protester shows plainclothes security teams pelting water bottles and other items as they attack the crowd.
(AP)

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“We came today and wanted to get our savings back because I have elderly people and children at home, and not being able to withdraw my savings has seriously affected my life,” said a woman from Shandong province, who gave only her last name, Zhang. for fear of retribution.

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

Protesters gathered before dawn 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. According to Zhang, the police blocked the street and began to gather on the other side by 8:00 am.

In this photo posted by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people hold up banners in protest in front of China's central bank branch in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan province.  Protesters gathered before dawn 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.  According to Zhang, the police blocked the street and began to gather on the other side by 8:00 am.

In this photo posted by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people hold up banners in protest in front of China’s central bank branch in Zhengzhou in central China’s Henan province. Protesters gathered before dawn 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. According to Zhang, the police blocked the street and began to gather on the other side by 8:00 am.
(AP)

In addition to uniformed cops, there were teams of men in plain T-shirts. The bank regulator and a local official arrived, but their attempts to speak to the crowd were suppressed. Zhang and another protester, a man from Beijing named Yang, told the AP that the protesters have already heard from officials and do not believe what they are saying. Yang declined to give his full name for fear of pressure from the authorities.

The police then announced to the protesters from a car with a megaphone that they are an illegal assembly and will be detained and fined if they do not leave. Around 10 am, men in T-shirts broke into the crowd and dispersed it. Zhang said she saw the women being dragged down the stairs at the entrance to the bank.

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

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

“While repeated protests and demonstrations don’t necessarily have a big impact, I think it would still be helpful if more people knew about us and understood or sympathized with us,” Yang said. “Every time you do it, you can change something. Although you will be beaten, they cannot do anything to you, right?”

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The protesters were taken by bus to various locations, where Zhang said they were forced to sign a letter guaranteeing they would not gather again.

Late Sunday Banking Regulators of Henan Province posted a brief notice on their website that the authorities are expediting the verification of customer funds at four banks and the development of a resolution plan to protect the rights and interests of the public.