Chinese protesters demanding bank deposits wrestle with security guards

China’s national flag is reflected on a commercial bank display bearing the sign of the Chinese yuan at a commercial bank branch in a business district in Beijing, China January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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BEIJING, July 10 (Reuters) – Several people protesting deposit freezes at some rural banks in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou said they were injured on Sunday as heavy-handed security guards dispersed the crowd.

Banks froze millions of dollars worth of deposits in April and told customers they were upgrading their internal systems. Read more Banks have not issued a notice on the matter since, depositors said.

Neither bank has responded to emails and phone calls asking for comment. Chinese media have reported that the frozen deposits could be worth as much as $1.5 billion, and authorities are investigating the three banks.

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About 1,000 people gathered outside the Zhengzhou branch of China’s central bank on Sunday to call for action.

Videos and photos on social media showed supporters waving banners and throwing plastic bottles at approaching security forces, who then roughly dragged some of the protesters away.

“I’m so sad I can’t even explain it to you,” a protester surnamed Zhang, 40, told Reuters.

Zhang said he was hoping to recover about 170,000 yuan ($25,000) deposited at one of the banks, Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank.

Zhang said he sustained injuries to his foot and thumb and was taken away by four unidentified security guards around noon. Security personnel outnumbered the protesters by about three to one, he said.

“They didn’t say they would hit us if we refused to go. They just said over the loudspeaker that we were breaking the law by petitioning. That’s ridiculous. It is the banks that are breaking the law.”

Reuters could not immediately reach police for comment.

The banks, including Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank and Shangcai Huimin Country Bank, are under investigation by authorities for illegal fundraising, the state-run Global Times reported.

More than 1,000 depositors from across the country had planned to gather in Zhengzhou last month to try to withdraw their funds, but they couldn’t when their COVID-19 health codes, which determine whether one can travel, came on were changed to the status “travel ban” . Continue reading

Five officers were subsequently fined for abusing the health code system.

($1 = 6.6945 yuan)

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Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and David Stanway; Edited by Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.