On Sunday, hundreds gathered in front of banks in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou after not being able to access their funds for months.
The protesters were met with violent resistance from state security, however, those who authorities say are behind the sudden and unannounced freezing of bank accounts have been arrested.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, those in the central Chinese province of Hunan who have been unable to withdraw money from their accounts since April have received no explanation.
Sunday's protest quickly became violent, with many being beaten by law enforcement as they demanded the banks give them their money.
According to the Washington Post, the majority of those who pushed, hit, and otherwise assaulted protestors were not wearing police uniforms, rather they were plainclothed, a common tactic in China.
"I never thought it could happen that officials could use this kind of violent beating against unarmed and defenseless regular people," one protestor said.
"If I hadn't experienced it myself, I really wouldn't believe it. When foreign media reported similar incidents in the past, I always thought it was slander," he added.
According to the ABC, those who attempted to spread the word about the protests in Hunan province were met with censorship. A hashtag used on the social media platform Weibo to bring attention to the violence perpetrated by police against protestors was disabled, and other communication was regulated.
In a country that quashes dissent, protests are rare, however since April people have gathered on numerous occasions to voice their displeasure, not only with the four major banks in the region, but also with government officials.
As Al Jazeera reports, many protestors argued that authorities were "colluding" with banks to suppress backlash by taking advantage of China's strict Covid policies, which, among other things, prohibit gathering in public places.
On Sunday night, police in the nearby city of Xuchang announced that they had arrested members of an alleged "criminal gang." Since 2011, the gang had allegedly been transferring money illegally via fake loans and subsequently using that money and "manipulation of executives" to control many local banks.
According to Barron's, a report by SionInsider found that the events in Hunan province are just the "tip of the iceberg of serious systemic and financial risks with small and medium-sized banks in China."
"Other small and medium-sized banks could soon be found to be facing similar problems," it continued, "particularly as financial contagion from Evergrande's debt crisis spreads further and the Chinese economy markedly deteriorates."
Evergrande, a Chinese property developer, collapsed in 2021 sending shockwaves through the economy.
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