Four banks in Henan have frozen millions of deposits since April, preventing individuals and businesses from accessing their funds.
Chinese police have arrested a number of suspects and frozen their assets over a mounting banking scandal that has sparked rare public protests in central Henan province, according to an official statement posted late Sunday.
The arrests come after four banks in Henan frozen millions of deposits in April, preventing individuals and companies from accessing their funds until now.
Angry depositors gathered outside the People’s Bank of China in Zhengzhou city on Sunday and demanded their money back after similar demonstrations in May and June.
Videos circulating online showed hundreds of protesters, some of whom were holding banners accusing local officials and police of corruption, being surrounded by police and beaten by identified men in white.
Henan police said the suspects had checked a number of banks through a group company and used third-party financial product platforms and their own company to collect deposits and sell financial products, according to the post on social media platform WeChat.
The criminal organization then issued fictitious loans as a way to illegally transfer the money, the report said.
Control of dissent
The banking and insurance regulator in Henan also said late Sunday that it was speeding up plans to address the crisis and “protect the legal rights and interests of the general public”.
Protests since May have involved hundreds of people demanding access to tens of billions of yuan in savings.
Some protesters accused authorities of collaborating with the banks by abusing the country’s COVID health card to keep them away from public areas.
Last month, authorities in Zhengzhou punished five officials for changing the health codes of more than 1,300 customers to control their movements.
Public protests are relatively rare in China, where dissent is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party. Chinese who do take to the streets risk arrest and prosecution in the country’s opaque legal system, which critics say is not independent from Beijing.