China banks promise to repay customers after protests erupt

·2-min read
People hold banners and chant slogans stage a protest at the entrance to a branch of China's central bank in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province (AP)
People hold banners and chant slogans stage a protest at the entrance to a branch of China's central bank in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province (AP)

Chinese regulators have promised to pay more customers after significant protests from people unable to take out their savings from crisis-hit banks.

The country’s Henan province has been rocked by clashes between police and people who have claimed they have not been able to take any money out from local banks since April this year.

The protests were first ignited after thousands of customers opened accounts at the banks in Henan and neighbouring Anhui province that offered relatively high interest rates.

They later found out they could not make withdrawals after reports that the head of the banks’ parent company was wanted for financial crimes.

When depositors tried to go to Zhengzhou in Henan to try to get their money back from the six financially troubled rural banks they were stopped from travelling by a Covid-19 health app on their mobile phones, sparking regular protests.

Uniformed and plain-clothed security personnel run to approach demonstrators in Zhengzhou (VIA REUTERS)
Uniformed and plain-clothed security personnel run to approach demonstrators in Zhengzhou (VIA REUTERS)

Due to the continued protests financial regulators have promised to give some bank customers some of their deposits back.

In statements issued last week, officials said customers with deposits of 50,000 yuan (£6,280) or less would be reimbursed. They said others with larger bank balances would get their money back at a later, unspecified date.

The announcement by regulators was received with scepticism by customers who have been organising protests online and offline since April to try to get their money back.

“This does not actually solve the problem,” said Xu Zhihao, a bank customer who did not take part in the protest on July 14.

One protester, who gave only her last name, Ding, said she and her mother had 800,000 yuan (£100,000) in savings deposits at multiple banks.

“They made this announcement because we put our lives on the line. This less than 50,000 yuan isn’t what we are owed. It’s more a payment to keep social stability,” said Ding, who declined to give her full name out of fear of reprisal.

She said she and her husband were hit by plainclothes security staff during a protest on Sunday, when several people were injured.

Multiple protesters told the Associated Press that some people were taken to hospital after being hurt when police and plainclothes security officers used force to disperse the protesters, though most of the injuries were scrapes or cuts.

Additional reporting by AP

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