On Sunday, China put an end to a demonstration by hundreds of depositors who wanted their money returned from banks that were experiencing a worsening liquidity crunch.
Since April, four rural banks in the Chinese province of Henan have frozen millions of dollars’ worth of savings, endangering the livelihoods of thousands of consumers in an already fragile economy due to Covid lockdowns. The provincial capital of Henan, Zhengzhou, has seen dozens of rallies by hundreds of depositors, but according to CNN, the Chinese government is ignoring their requests.
In their largest-ever demonstration, depositors launched their latest on Sunday in front of the People’s Bank of China branch in Zhengzhou.
The local government used plain clothes to suppress the protest. This was the depositors’ 4th protest which is likely to continue until central and local governments reached an agreement on who pays how much share.
“I did not expect them to be so violent and shameless this time. There was no communication, no warning before they brutally dispersed us,” said one depositor from a metropolis outside Henan who had protested in Zhengzhou previously, and who requested CNN conceal his name due to security concerns.
“Why would government employees beat us up? We’re only ordinary people asking for our deposits back, we did nothing wrong,” the Shandong woman said.
The rally is among the biggest China has seen since the outbreak, but travel across China is constrained by a variety of Covid limitations on mobility.
Notably, protesters were spotted flying national flags to show their patriotism, which is a popular tactic in China. The strategy is intended to demonstrate that their complaints are only against local administrations and that they support and rely on the central government to seek remedy in a nation where dissent is promptly put down.
“Against the corruption and violence of the Henan government,” a banner written in English read.
At the bank’s entrance, a big picture of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong was painted on a pillar. As demonstrators yelled “gangsters” at them, hundreds of police and security officers — some in uniform and others in plain clothing — gathered across the street and ringed the scene.
According to a statement made by the local police late on Sunday, members of a “criminal gang” were recently apprehended. They were accused of essentially seizing control of the Henan rural banks beginning in 2011 by using their shareholdings and “manipulating bank executives.”
The defendants were also suspected by the police of moving money without authorization through bogus loans, and some of their assets had been confiscated, according to the police.