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Chinese police On Sunday, protesters said they “beat up” citizens who had gathered to protest the freezing of their bank accounts due to COVID-19 policies.
The protests have centered on three banks serving predominantly rural communities that have frozen millions of dollars of accounts since April. Some 1,000 protesters gathered to call for the release of their funds outside the China Central Bank’s Zhengzhou branch, but they said they were met with violence.
“I feel so offended that I can’t even explain it to you,” one of the protesters, known only as Zhang, told Reuters.
“They didn’t say they would beat us if we refused to leave. They just used the loudspeaker to say we were breaking the law by petitioning. That’s funny. It is the banks that are breaking the law,” the demonstrator added.
Even with over a thousand protesters, Zhang said the police outnumbered the demonstrators by about three to one.
Chinese government launched investigations into a couple of banks, Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank and Shangcai Huimin Country Bank, but did not announce further action.
The economic unrest comes as China is already trying to contain the hotspots of COVID-19 outbreaks within its borders.
Last week, Wuxi city officials shut down in-person dining and many other indoor events. Authorities are also urging residents to work from home and not leave the city.
China’s approach to the “COVID zero” pandemic means that even small outbreaks lead to widespread lockdowns. This policy led to unrest in Shanghai, where the lockdown lasted several months and access to food and other daily commodities became severely hampered.
Government officials advertised it Shanghai was free from COVID in early June, but hundreds of thousands of residents nevertheless remained in isolation.
Shanghai authorities say more than 500,000 cases have been reported in the city between April and the end of May.