The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China. With only a few weeks remaining, over a million ant farmers in China's northeastern Liaoning Province are now finding their investments and life savings disappearing as a result of the $2-billion corporate bankruptcy of the Yilishen Group.
On January 11, 2,000 farmers marched and protested in front of the Liaoning Provincial Government building located in Shenyang City, whose many officials, including former governor Bo Xilai, backed the company. The Liaoning Public Security Bureau called in over 200 squad cars and a large number of police officers to be on duty at 6 a.m. to begin suppressing the protest. About 2,000 ant farmers protested in front of or near the provincial government office. So far, dozens have been arrested.
An ant farmer said, "I have not received any payments [for dividends on my investments] for months. The Chinese New Year is near. We need to find a way to get our money back so we'll have money for the New Year!"
Another ant farmer told The Epoch Times, "Some farmers have posted a message on an online bulletin board suggesting everyone go to the provincial government to protest on the first, 11th and 21st every month because these are the days the Yilishen Group used to send out payments. That's why we decided to have a protest at 10 a.m. on January 11."
According to the ant farmers, an earlier protest of 10,000 people has scared the Liaoning authorities. As a result the police have repeatedly been escalating the suppression of other potential protests. The ant farmer noticed that related information has been blocked on the Internet and discussions on the subject in chat rooms were monitored by the Internet police. Now that the authorities have learned the ant farmers' plan, they have been investigating farmers whom the police suspecte to be protest organizers and confiscated their PCs.
According to inside information, the Liaoning Province Public Security Bureau had a long meeting until 8 p.m. on January 10. The police warned farmers not to go to the provincial government, and set up checkpoints at train stations, bus stations and highway exits to intercept protesting ant farmers from near by cities and counties.
Farmers told The Epoch Times that the 2,000 protesters today were primarily Shenyang's local residents, but with a few hundred from the nearby Benxi area. However, the police effectively dispersed the protesters and made several arrests before any farmers reached the provincial government office.
A woman ant farmer from Shenyang went to the provincial government office early in the morning to check on the protest's development. "About 200 to 300 squad cars had been parked on the street in front of the office since 6:40 a.m.," the farmer said.
"The police blocked all the roads leading to the provincial government office. We couldn't even get close," the woman said.
She added, "The police were crawling all over the government office today. Police cars were lined up on the main streets outside. The farmers were forced to squeeze themselves into the small alleys, unable to form a large group," said another witness. "After the first protest the police would disperse any gathering of three or more people in front of the office."
The Epoch Times called the Liaoning Provincial Government and the Chief of the Public Security Bureau in Liaoning Province, but the calls were unanswered.
A woman ant farmer has invested 370,000 yuan (US$51,027) in the Yilishen Group. "I am a bus driver," she said. "I have worked seven days a week for ten years. I even worked on the Chinese New Year's Day. I drove the bus all year around in all weather conditions. I earned my money with blood and sweat, and tears!"
Another woman ant farmer said sadly, "We need to get our money back! But the police drove us away every time we get close the government building. The police even question passersby of their business there. I have invested 2.12 million yuan ($292,139). It's my two sons' savings. They have been working in Moscow for three and five years respectively. Their money is now totally lost."
Another ant farmer who had gone to protest said, "In comparison, Liaoning is a poverty province in China with a high unemployment rate. I sold my house to buy ants. I am now renting. We demand that the Liaoning Provincial Government return our investments because it was the government that gave the Yilishen Group its business license and dozens of awards. We demand the culprits to be brought to justice, because they have created such a tremendous amount of losses for the people. We want the truth! We want our money back!"
She continued, "Police arrested and beat us up. We want nothing but to openly communicate with the provincial government about our investments, but now the government officials have turned a blind eye to our plight! When I walked past by the provincial government office with two fellow ant farmers, the police would question our business and make us leave. Is this the 'harmonious society' the Chinese government has been advocating and talking about?"
However, the billion-dollar corporate bankruptcy affecting millions of investors was not an agenda during the 14th Liaoning Province People's Congress that took place on January 4. "Congress Representatives Pays Attention to Health Issues" was on the headlines of Shenyang Daily, the largest local newspaper. Not a single word about the millions of devastated investors was mentioned during the congress.
A Shenyang ant farmer shouted in rage, "The government is full of crap! We will make a lot of noise if we don't get our money back! We will find other ways to make ourselves heard!"
A farmer from Tieling City said, "One day the police will not be able to stop us. Many people said that when Spring arrives and the weather gets warm, people in Shenyang will come out and watch our protest, which I guarantee will gather more than 100,000 people. The problem is the Chinese New Year is coming and we need money right away!"