In the past two months, angry protesters in Zhengzhou, the capital of Hainan province, have staged several protests, but their demands have not been heeded.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 Chinese depositors gathered outside the Zhengzhou branch of the country’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China, to launch their largest protest, more than half a dozen protesters told CNN.
This time, most of the protesters had come out of the bank just before noon – some at 4am – to be stopped by the authorities. People, including adults and children, took flight of stairs outside the bank, chanting slogans and holding banners.
“Henan Banks, give me back my savings!” They shouted in solidarity, mostly waving Chinese flags, in videos shared with CNN by two protesters.
The use of national flags to show patriotism is a common practice for protesters in China, where opposition is strongly suppressed. This tactic is to show that their grievances are only against local governments, and that they support the central government and are seeking a solution.
A banner reading “Henan Government Against Corruption and Violence” was written in English.
A large portrait of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong hangs on a pillar at the bank’s entrance.
Across the street, hundreds of police and security personnel – some in uniform and others in plain clothes – gathered and cordoned off the area as protesters shouted “thugs” at them. .
The confrontation lasted for several hours until 11 a.m. when a convoy of security officers suddenly climbed the stairs and clashed with the protesters as they threw bottles and other small items.
The scene quickly escalated into chaos as security officers took protesters down the stairs and beat up those who resisted, including women and the elderly, according to eyewitnesses and social media videos.
A woman from eastern Shandong Province told CNN that she was thrown to the ground by two security guards, who broke her arm and injured her. A 27-year-old man from the southern city of Shenzhen, named Sun, said he was hit by seven or eight guards before being knocked to the ground. A 45-year-old man from the central city of Wuhan said his shirt was completely broken on the back during the altercation.
Many said they were shocked by the sudden violence by security forces.
“I didn’t expect that this time they would be so savage and shameless. Before they savagely dissolved us, there was no contact, no warning,” said a storekeeper from the city outside Henan. Who had previously protested in Zhengzhou and asked CNN to hide his. Name due to security concerns.
“Why are government officials beating us? We are just ordinary people who want our money back. We have done nothing wrong,” said Shandong’s wife.
Demonstrators boarded dozens of buses and were sent to temporary detention centers across the city – from hotels and schools to factories, according to people detained there. Some injured taken to hospitals People said most of them were released from detention late in the afternoon.
CNN reached out to the Henan provincial government for comment.
The Zhengzhou Business District Police Station – which controls the protest site – called CNN for comment.
Late on Sunday night, the Henan banking regulator issued a brief statement, saying “relevant departments” had stepped up efforts to verify information on customer funds at four rural banks.
“(The authorities) have a plan to address this issue which will be announced in the near future,” the statement said.
Zhuchang City Police in neighboring Zhengzhou said in a statement late on Sunday that they had recently arrested members of an alleged “criminal gang” that has been effectively controlling Hinan Rural Banks since 2011. Have – using their shares. Interferes with bank officials. ”
Police said the suspects were accused of illegally transferring money through fake loans, adding that some of their funds and assets had been confiscated and frozen.
The protests come at a politically sensitive time for the ruling Communist Party, whose leader Xi Jinping is expected to call for an unprecedented third term at a key meeting this autumn.
Widespread protests over lost savings and a shattered livelihood can be seen as a political embarrassment for Xi, who promoted a national vision of leading the country to a “big revival”.
Henan authorities are under intense pressure to stop the protests. But lenders remain indifferent. As the issue escalates, many have become more desperate to get their spam back.
Huang, a storekeeper from Wuhan, lost his job in the medical cosmetology industry this year as the business struggled with the epidemic. Yet he cannot withdraw his life savings – from 500,000 yuan (ډالرو 75,000) – from a rural bank in Henan.
“As an unemployed person, all I can do is save my life. But I can’t do it now – how should I (support my family)?” Huang said his son is in high school.
Sun, a Shenzhen resident, is fighting to keep his machine factory out of bankruptcy after losing 4 million yuan (59 597,000) in reserves to Henan Bank. He can’t even pay his 40 employees without money.
Sun said he was covered in wounds and had swollen lower back after being repeatedly beaten by security guards during the protest.
“This incident completely destroyed my perception of the government. I have spent so much of my life trusting the government. I will never trust it again,” he said.