Hundreds of bank customers in central China were beaten and dispersed by plainclothes police, in the presence of uniformed officers, for protesting the freezing of their accounts in a regional bank that hadn’t provided a credible explanation for disallowing them to access their funds.
On May 23, a group of protesters rallied in front of the provincial government of Henan, shouting for free withdrawal of their deposits from Yuzhou Xin Min Sheng Village Bank, a regional lender in the city of Yuzhou. Footage circulating online shows a team of plainclothes police in black attacking persistent protesters in a sit-in to turn them away while uniformed police officers just watch the violent scene from a distance. Later, police, security guards, and plainclothes officers force protesters, who were begging and crying for mercy, into buses and took them away.
Four days before, they had received similar treatment by local authorities.
One of the protesters surnamed Wang told The Epoch Times they originally gathered in the provincial banking regulator around 9:00 a.m. Police asked them to move to a designated location when their group grew to about 700 to 800. However, the petitioners then went to the seat of the provincial government seven kilometers away, to seek help.
Wang said police had already blocked nearby roadways when they reached the destination between 11:00 and 12:00 and soon found themselves surrounded by law enforcement.
“They organized plainclothes [officers] in unison, all half-sleeved, to use force to crack down on the depositors,” said Wang. “We were all stuffed into the buses and put under control.”
Posts on social media show police deleted photos of the protest from their cellphones. Prior to their release, their ID information was recorded, and they were coerced into signing a promise to not commit such an act again.
No Official Explanation
No person or authority has offered an explanation as to why the customers could not freely withdraw their money, according to Wang.
The local bank declared suspension of online service on April 18 in the name of upgrading the internal systems, which fueled anger and protests from clients.
“Nobody expected his or her deposits to be frozen,” Wang told The Epoch Times. “The incident seems like the heavens collapsing for families.” Many chafe under the pandemic shutdowns and shrinking incomes.
Another victim, surnamed He, told The Epoch Times that the bank had denied her access to her funds for more than 30 days.
She said she received messages from the bank, guiding her to buy its deposit products on its official WeChat account.
“As depositors, we perceived that to be its own platform,” therefore, we deposited money to it without any doubt. It’s a small app on the official WeChat account, which has been verified with Tencent,” the woman said. Tech giant Tencent is the developer of WeChat, an instant messaging and payment platform popular in China.
“All our deposits are hard-won and legitimate,” she continued. “We deposit money to such small banks because we build our trust on the supervision by our country’s regulator. However, all parties involved are seeking to shift the blame to the depositors.”
The official site of the bank indicates that it obtained its license from the China Banking Regulatory Commission in January 2011.
The Epoch Times lost contact with the woman on the day of the interview.
The bank in question couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.
Gu Xiaohua and Li Xin’an contributed to this report.