On June 25, more than 300 depositors at Henan rural banks from various provinces met at the doorway of the Henan Supervision Department to protest peacefully. They used their real names to report local officials’ carelessness and irresponsibility to the Henan Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.
According to China’s Digital Finance Think Tank, depositors at six rural banks in Henan and Anhui could not withdraw their funds as of April 18. These depositors are spread around the country, involving over 400,000 people, with more than $6 billion of their money in the banks.
To limit the resistance of these depositors, the Zhengzhou government marked some depositors’ health codes as “red codes” so that they were quarantined or banned from moving, causing public outrage. On the 22nd, the government indicated that it would penalize some officials, but it did not satisfy the people’s demand to withdraw their funds.
According to the BBC, the Zhengzhou Municipal Commission for Discipline Inspection and Supervision imposed a red code on 1,317 rural bank depositors; 446 of them were given a red code after scanning a “location code” upon entry; while 871 people were hit with a red code after scanning the Zhengzhou “location code” of someone else.
A location code is a QR code that is displayed in public areas throughout numerous Chinese cities to prevent and control epidemics and undertake epidemiological investigations. Many venues, from train stations to tourist destinations, need visitors to scan a code to enter.
Depositors went to the Henan Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission early on the 25th to request the reinstatement of withdrawal access.
On the morning of the 25th, depositor Chen Yan (pseudonym) told Epoch Times about 300 protesters had arrived at the Henan Supervision Bureau of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission in Jinshui District, Zhengzhou City, at 5:30 a.m.
He claimed that in the last “red code event,” Henan had found a few minor officials to punish, but that didn’t solve the problem for depositors. “Actually, we need to be able to withdraw, but it’s been more than seventy days and we still can’t,” he explained.
They hung white cloth banners with the inscriptions “Henan village bank, please restore my savings,” also “The village bank cooperated with others to steal people’s money,” and “People are not allowed to withdraw money from the local bank.”
“All depositors like us can’t take out a cent,” Chen Yan told The Epoch Times, “and many people deposit their life savings and all their assets in the bank, but now they can’t get them out.”
Chen Yan stated that some of these depositors have sick children at home who require immediate medical attention. There was also a depositor whose mother became unwell and required surgery. Still, the bank would not allow them to withdraw money for treatment, so the family had no option but to sign a consent form to discontinue treatment, and the mother passed away.
According to a June 23 Sohu News report, a 50-year-old single mother raised two children independently while caring for her sick, elderly mother. She sold goods at the market every night and had amassed 34,000 dollars in savings, all of which she deposited in the village bank. Her mother’s cancer has worsened since the April 18 bank catastrophe, and because her daughter couldn’t withdraw money to pay costs, she had no choice but to stop her treatment. She also cannot bury her mother since she lacks the funds to construct a burial after losing everything.
“Tragedies like these will follow one another. People can’t live if they can’t get the money,” said Chen Yan with a sigh.
The government not only didn’t welcome the protesters on the morning of the 25th but also planned for people to wear black and white to scare away those who came to sit there. Chen Yan stated, “There was no opposition. We were only sitting outside the Banking and Insurance Commission’s gate when they forced us out. We’re not sure how much longer we can hold out.”
Depositors at the location reported that people in white started chasing them away around 8 p.m. The intersections on both sides of the China Banking and Insurance Administration were also closed, with passengers on a bus trapped.