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According to protesters, Chinese police “beat up” citizens who gathered to protest the freezing of their bank accounts due to COVID-19 policies.

The protests focused on three banks serving primarily rural communities that have frozen millions of dollars in accounts since April. About 1,000 protesters gathered to demand the release of their funds outside the Zhengzhou branch of the Central Bank of China, but say they were met with violence.

“I feel so pained that I can’t even explain it to you,” a protester named Zhang told Reuters.

“They did not say they would beat us if we refused to leave. They simply used the loudspeaker to say we were breaking the law by submitting a petition. It is ridiculous. It is the banks that are breaking the law,” the protester added.

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In this photo released by Yang on Sunday, July 10, 2022, people hold banners and chant slogans during a protest at the entrance to a Chinese central bank branch in Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan province. A large crowd of angry Chinese bank depositors confronted police on Sunday, some allegedly injured as they were brutally taken away, in a case that attracted attention due to previous attempts to use a COVID-19 tracking app to prevent them from mobilizing. (Photo AP / Yang)
(AP)

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Even with more than a thousand demonstrators, according to Zhang, the police outnumbered the demonstrators by about three to one.

The Chinese government has opened investigations into the bank pair, Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank and Shangcai Huimin Country Bank, but has not announced further action.

Economic turmoil comes as China is already attempting to eliminate COVID-19 outbreak clusters within its borders.

Wuxi city officials closed in-person restaurants and many other indoor businesses last week. Authorities are also encouraging residents to work from home and not to leave the city.

China’s “zero COVID” approach to the pandemic means that even small outbreaks translate into widespread blockages. Politics led to unrest in Shanghai, where lockdowns lasted for months and access to food and other daily goods became severely strained.

Government officials touted it Shanghai was COVID-free in early June, but hundreds of thousands of residents remained locked up.

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Shanghai authorities say the city suffered more than 500,000 cases between April and the end of May.

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