By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
China’s police said late Sunday they detained “some suspects” and froze funds in connection with the disappearance of deposits from several banks in the country’s Henan province.
Millions of deposits disappeared in April, leaving firms unable to pay workers and individuals locked out of savings, prompting protests in the province over the weekend.
Henan police said the suspects could effectively control several of the province’s banks via a group company.
Criminals used third-party financial product platforms and a firm they set up to gather deposits and sell other financial products, police said.
The detained suspects then allegedly made fictitious loans as a way to transfer the funds illegally.
But despite the claimed detentions, it wasn’t clear when and if calm would restore among the protestors and many others who were still without their hard-earned money on Monday.
Sunday’s protest was the latest escalation in a months-long dispute as customers fought to recover their deposits from four small banks in Henan province.
The lenders suddenly suspended online cash withdrawals in April.
Plain-clothed security personnel scuffled with demonstrators during a protest outside a People’s Bank of China building in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, footage showed.
The protests threatened to escalate into a public outcry towards the Communist government’s perceived attempt to control the lifestyles of China’s more than 1.4 billion people.
Adding to the anger were reports that local officials in Henan changed the codes of the personal mobile phone health applications of more than 1,000 depositors.
The authorities tried to imply they had tested positive for COVID-19 and prevent them from protesting, several sources confirmed.
Their move added to broader fears in the country over the perceived improper use of mandated coronavirus contact tracing apps to control the public.
It is part of broader surveillance that also impacted China’s minority but rapidly growing Christian community.
House churches and other non-registered denominations have reported police raids, destruction of properties, and detentions in recent months and years.
There are at least some 100 million Christians in China, according to conservative estimates. Some reports citing Communist officials suggest the actual number may be 130 million or higher.
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