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Videos show riot over lost bank deposits in China

Protestors call plainclothes police 'gangsters,' condemn 'corruption and violence of the Henan government'

Chinese depositors hold banners protesting loss of savings. (Twitter, Qwaszx179730654 screenshot)

Chinese depositors hold banners protesting loss of savings. (Twitter, Qwaszx179730654 screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Dozens of videos surfaced on social media on Sunday (July 10) showing thousands of bank depositors protesting their inability to retrieve funds from their banks in China's Henan Province.

In recent months, thousands of depositors from six rural banks in China's Henan Province have found that their accounts have been reset to zero, and they are not able to recover their savings. At 5 a.m. on Sunday, thousands of furious bank customers swarmed outside the Zhengzhou branch of the People's Bank of China to protest the loss of their funds, with one protestor so desperate that they hanged themselves, according to Liberty Times.

Twitter account Henan Rural Bank Rights Protection, which posted many videos of the protests that day, claimed that over 3,000 were in attendance. According to the account, people flocked from "all over the country" because they were unable to withdraw their deposits. It also alleged that many of the depositors, including children, people with disabilities, and pregnant women, were beaten by plainclothes police and security personnel.

On April 18, millions of dollars in deposits were frozen, with banks telling customers that this was the result of an upgrade in internal systems. However, according to depositors, they have not received any communication from the banks on the matter since.

An initiation investigation by Henan authorities found that the Henan New Wealth Group had been accessing and manipulating the online trading systems of the banks, with a number of suspects arrested. Additional investigations revealed that the group was led by a suspect identified as Lu Yi, who had been exploiting the banks to "engage in illicit activities and other serious crimes," according to state-run media mouthpiece, the Global Times. Liberty Times estimates that Lu had made off with 39.5 billion in Chinese Yuan (NT$175.5 billion).

The report confirmed accounts by depositors that their digital health codes turned red when they attempted to travel to lodge complaints, and stated that five officials from Zhengzhou had been punished for "abusing the health code system" on June 22. After more depositors reported their health codes turning red, the local health commission claimed the problem was caused by a "switch of the (health code) systems."

During the protest on Sunday, participants held up signs which read "Oppose the capriciousness of power, and oppose the violent beating of depositors by the Henan Provincial Government's collaboration with the underworld.," "Oppose the corruption and violence of the Henan government, 400,000 depositors in Henan have seen their Chinese dream shattered," and "Oppose the three policies of the Lou Yangsheng of the provincial party committee: zero petitions, zero accidents, and zero cases."

One of the banners was written in English and read "Against the corruption and violence of the Henan government." In a video of the protest, a large number of plainclothes police and security forces can be seen marching to the scene and protestors can be clearly heard repeatedly shouting at them "gangsters!"

The security personnel soon descended on the crowd and many videos show them attacking the protestors and trying to drag them away. Subsequent videos and photos posted online allegedly show injuries sustained by the depositors during the clashes that day.