Bank protesters in China’s Henan province attacked by plainclothes groups

Bank protesters in China's Henan province attacked by plainclothes groups
Written by admin

Hundreds of rural bank customers in central China’s Henan province were surrounded, beaten and dragged away by a group of unidentified men on Sunday as they protested local government corruption amid a months-long freeze on their deposits.

Since mid-April, depositors have been pressing Henan authorities to help recover savings from at least four small “town” banks that stopped withdrawals. The campaign garnered national attention last month after a planned rally in the Henan capital Zhengzhou was thwarted by digital health codes that mysteriously turned red. After a nationwide outcry over the misuse of the coronavirus-fighting system, the central government stepped in and punished five local officials.

Over the weekend, depositors tried again, this time with valid “green” codes. At dawn on Sunday, according to videos of the incident shared on Chinese social media, hundreds of protesters unfurled banners denouncing corruption on the steps of the local branch of the People’s Bank of China, including one in English that read “No deposits. No human rights.”

How a Huge Chinese ‘Ponzi Scheme’ Lured Investors

“The Chinese dreams of 400,000 depositors in Henan have been shattered,” read another banner, referring to President Xi Jinping’s slogan that promised a better life for those who work hard and remain loyal to the Chinese Communist Party. Many waved Chinese national flags.

They also accused the government of working with the “mafia” to violently suppress the protests. It’s unclear exactly why the banks froze the withdrawals, but police are investigating Henan New Fortune Group, a shareholder in four banks, on suspicion of illegal fundraising, according to local media reports.

It is common practice for police in China to be present at sensitive events without uniforms and instead often with pre-arranged badges. During previous court trials of Chinese human rights lawyers, foreign journalists and diplomats gathering outside the courthouse have occasionally been pushed around by unidentified individuals wearing yellow badges with matching smiley faces.

The unusually bold demonstrations were greeted by dozens of uniformed police officers, as well as a team of burly men, mostly dressed in white blouses, who all arrived together. Videos of the incidents, shared widely on Chinese social media before censors stepped in, showed officers in blue shirts waiting as burly men in white shirts began charging into the crowd. The protesters were dragged down a flight of stairs before being led away. Some were loaded onto buses, often sporting bruises from the fighting.

“I have been in shock from yesterday until today,” one protester said in an interview, asking to remain anonymous for fear of official repercussions for speaking to foreign media. He repeatedly described the men as “unidentified”, but added: “I never thought it could happen that officials could use this kind of violent beating against ordinary unarmed and defenseless people.”

“If I hadn’t experienced it myself, I really wouldn’t believe it. When foreign media reported similar incidents in the past, I always thought it was slander,” he said.

Chinese university is the scene of a rare coronavirus lockdown protest

In response to videos from the scene, Tsinghua University law professor Lao Dongyan called on the Weibo microblog for those responsible for the beatings to be held criminally responsible.

Lao added that an “immune system” of the media and the law should have prevented depositors’ quest to recover their savings from falling into such brutal scenes. “This is a concrete sign that there is a problem with the immune system: all the normal pathways to seek relief are blocked. What’s scary is that this could just be the beginning,” she said.

The loss of savings is a relatively common cause of protest in China, despite widespread efforts by the stability-obsessed Chinese Communist Party to prevent public unrest. In recent years, crackdowns on poorly regulated financial products and peer-to-peer lending have repeatedly lured investors to the capital to pressure authorities to make up losses.

China’s rural banks are currently the focal point of a government campaign to control debt. These institutions account for about 29 percent of all subprime financial entities in the country as of mid-2021, according to the People’s Bank of China.

Facing increased competition from larger institutions, many small banks have tried in recent years to attract depositors by using higher interest rates and also recruiting customers from across the country for online services. Regulations for banks were not established for Internet finance, He Ping, a professor at Renmin University School of Finance, saying Sanlian Lifeweek Magazine.

The Henan Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said Sunday that it will speed up the verification process for customers of the four village banks under investigation and will soon announce a solution to the problem.

However, depositors continue to seek ways to pressure the Henan government not to ignore the case, including comments below the official Weibo account of the US Embassy in China. “Quickly report on Zhengzhou. Save us,” one user wrote on Sunday.

Vic Chiang in Taipei, Taiwan contributed to this report.

About the author


Leave a Comment