China deploys huge police force to prevent fraud protest
Protesters told AFP they had come from every corner of China in hopes that by gathering en masse the government would recognise their grievances and take action.
Hundreds of police patrolled the streets of Beijing's financial district today as Chinese authorities thwarted a planned protest against money lost in risky peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms and a lack of government help.
Possibly over 8,000 people were expected to gather at the Beijing protest, one petitioner said.
But instead, a massive police dragnet rounded people up and took them away in buses.
"All these platforms have failed and hundreds of millions lost, yet the government still doesn't regulate anything," said a man in his 30s who had lost 110,000 yuan (USD 16,000) in a P2P platform called "Prosperous Pig".
"I knew my investment was a risk, but to end up without a cent isn't mere risk, it's fraud -- and the government hasn't dealt with it. In China, we're the best at passing the buck."
So he invested, but in mid-July, his money disappeared. He went to the platform's Shanghai headquarters but its office was deserted.
After repeated, ignored appeals in Shanghai and his native Shaanxi province, he was now trying his luck in Beijing. Authorities in Shanghai had already prevented a protest there.
"Every word we send or say by phone is data they use to control and track us," he said bitterly, minutes before nearly 100 police showed up and he was taken away.
China's P2P industry, worth some $195 billion according to Bloomberg News, is the world's largest but is highly risky and unregulated.
In July alone 164 firms were identified as "problematic platforms" from which investors could no longer withdraw their funds, according to P2P database Wangdaizhijia.
"If we check someone's ID and find they're a petitioner, we won't let them stay -- for the sake of our customers' safety. Who knows what kind of emotional state they'd be in and whether they'd make a scene," he said.
One middle-aged man, who had lost 200,000 yuan ($29,000), traveled all night to reach Beijing, standing upright for the 10-hour train journey as all seats were booked.
"We just want the government to pay attention to this situation, to check the flow of funds and see if there is corruption. This is our purpose," he explained.
He wasn't particularly optimistic that his trip would yield any outcomes but said he had to try, even though he was due back at work the very next day.
"I'm not afraid of being arrested because it just won't happen. This is a society ruled by law, and I didn't break the law."
Two officers came to tell him that they had vehicles waiting to take him to a central location where petitioners against all P2P firms had congregated, to facilitate a meeting with authorities.
But the two soon returned with a battalion of officers who checked the IDs of everyone in the public park before leading him and some 20 other petitioners away.
They were marched onto a public bus, which drove them away under police escort.
More than 120 such buses lined the roads around the China Banking Regulatory Commission, where the protest was to occur.
A man in plainclothes sealed the windows of one vehicle shut with clear tape before it drove off.
The regulatory commission did not respond to faxed requests for comment.
A policeman told AFP protesters would be taken to a neighborhood on the outskirts of Beijing, where China maintains what rights activists describe as "black jails". Petitioners are typically held there until minders escort them back to their hometowns.
"Cases sent there are essentially sent into a black hole -- people never get any results and end up like characters in 'Waiting for Godot'," explained Patrick Poon, China researcher for Amnesty International.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)