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A large crowd of angry Chinese bank depositors confronted police on Sunday, some abused as they were taken away, in a case that attracted attention due to previous attempts to use a COVID-19 monitoring app to prevent them from mobilizing. .

Hundreds of people raised banners and chanted slogans on the wide steps of the entrance to a branch of the Chinese central bank in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, about 620 kilometers (380 miles) southwest of Beijing. Video taken by a protester shows plainclothes security teams being hit with water bottles and other objects as they charge the crowd.

Subsequent videos posted on social media show an unclear number of protesters pushed forward individually and down the stairs by security teams dressed in plain black or white T-shirts. Phone calls to the Zhengzhou City and Henan Province police rang unanswered.

The protesters are among the thousands of customers who opened accounts in six rural banks in Henan and neighboring Anhui province that offered higher interest rates. They later found they could not withdraw their funds after the media reported that the head of the banks’ parent company was on the run and wanted for financial crime.

In this photo posted by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people hold banners and chant slogans as they stage a protest at the entrance to a branch of the Chinese central bank in Zhengzhou, Henan province, central China. Hundreds of people raised banners and chanted slogans on the wide steps of the entrance to a branch of the Chinese central bank in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, about 620 kilometers (380 miles) southwest of Beijing. Video taken by a protester shows plainclothes security teams being hit with water bottles and other objects as they charge the crowd.
(AP)

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“We came today and we wanted to get our savings back, because I have seniors and children at home and the inability to withdraw the savings has severely affected my life,” said a woman from Shandong Province, who only gave her surname, Zhang, for fear of retaliation.

What had been a local scandal turned into a national incident last month due to the misuse of the COVID-19 monitoring app. Many who went to Zhengzhou to seek action from regulators found that their health status on the app had turned red, preventing them from traveling. Some reported being questioned by police after checking into their hotel as to why they came to town. Five Zhengzhou officials were subsequently punished.

Protesters gathered before dawn on Sunday in front of the People’s Bank of China building in Zhengzhou. Police vehicles with flashing lights can be seen in the videos shot in the early morning darkness. The police closed the street and at 8 am started massing on the other side, Zhang said.

In this photo released by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people holding banners stage a protest at the Chinese central bank branch in Zhengzhou, Henan province, central China.  Protesters gathered before dawn on Sunday in front of the People's Bank of China building in Zhengzhou.  Police vehicles with flashing lights can be seen in the videos shot in the early morning darkness.  The police closed the street and at 8 am started massing on the other side, Zhang said.

In this photo released by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people holding banners stage a protest at the Chinese central bank branch in Zhengzhou, Henan province, central China. Protesters gathered before dawn on Sunday in front of the People’s Bank of China building in Zhengzhou. Police vehicles with flashing lights can be seen in the videos shot in the early morning darkness. The police closed the street and at 8 am started massing on the other side, Zhang said.
(AP)

In addition to the uniformed police, there were squads of men in plain T-shirts. A bank regulator and a local government official arrived, but their attempts to talk to the crowd were suppressed. Zhang and another protester, a Beijing man nicknamed Yang, told the AP that the protesters had already heard the officials and don’t believe what they say. Yang refused to be identified with his full name, fearing pressure from the authorities.

The police then announced to the protesters from a vehicle with a megaphone that it was an illegal assembly and that they would be detained and fined if they did not leave. Around 10 in the morning, the men in T-shirts rushed into the crowd and scattered it. Zhang said he saw women being dragged down the steps of the bank entrance.

Zhang herself was shot and said she asked the officer, “Why did you hit me?” According to her, he replied, “What’s wrong with hitting you?”

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Yang said he was shot by two security officers, including one who fell down the stairs and mistakenly assumed in the chaos that Yang hit or pushed him.

“While the repeated protests and demonstrations don’t necessarily have a big impact, I think it’s still useful if more people know and understand or sympathize with us,” Yang said. “Every time you do that, you could make a difference. Even if you get hit, they can’t really do anything to you, right?”

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Protesters were taken by bus to various places where Zhang said they were forced to sign a letter to ensure they would no longer gather.

On Sunday, Henan banking regulators posted a brief notice on their website stating that authorities are speeding up the verification of client funds in four banks and formulating a plan to resolve the situation to protect the rights and the interests of the public.

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