Banks across China recently froze many depositors’ accounts, including bank cards in Shenzhen. Depositors are unable to withdraw cash, or transfer money via the online payment platform Alipay. A bank employee said that this is a measure taken by banks to cooperate with the “card freezing” operation by the police. Related topics again entered Weibo hot searches.

On August 12, according to China Business News, a bank employee in Shenzhen told reporters that the measures taken by the Bank of China in coordination with the Ministry of Public Security recently to “freeze cards,” includes many banks in Shenzhen and also other banks. There have been a lot of customers going to the bank counter to unlock their accounts, especially on weekends, sometimes they had to wait for an hour in line before getting in.

The report also shows that many banks such as China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Postal Savings Bank also face a similar situation. People lining up in front of these banks have also had their cards “frozen.”

On October 10, 2020, the Ministry of Public Security of the CCP and the Banking Regulatory Commission of China began a nationwide regulation of phone card bank card sales on the pretext of cracking down on telecommunications and internet fraud, specifically the “card freezing” activity.

In December, the Supreme Court of the Chinese Communist Party, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the People’s Bank of China jointly issued a statement cracking down on the sale of phone cards and bank cards.

Since last July, the operation of “card freezing” has been extended to banks. This includes China’s industrial and commercial banks, construction banks, agriculture banks, Everbright banks, CITIC banks. They have also begun working with authorities to freeze individual accounts.

Shenzhen recently issued a notice saying that Shenzhen is “famous for telecommunications fraud” so it needs to take “card freezing” measures. Many account types are classified as high risk, such as no transactions for three months, no utility bills and building mortgage payments, bank account balance for over 30 days under $148 or 1,000 yuan, and male depositors aged 16 to 40 who are not Shenzhen residents in the household registration. 

Ai Ye (pseudonym), a Guangzhou citizen working in Shenzhen, told The Epoch Times the exact opposite situation of the official announcement, “My card at Bank of China has been frozen because there were two times when my account received money. After that, I immediately transferred the money, they said my bank card was abnormal, but it was my husband who transferred the money for me to buy milk powder, of course when the money arrives, I pay immediately.”

Ai Ye said that to unlock an account was very cumbersome, the bank not only checked the account’s details, but also asked why money was going in-and-out. They even asked about her relationship with the people who deal with her account. The bank is also closed on weekends and can only process during business hours. There are a lot of people lining up and all of them want to unlock their cards; too many people cannot get in, they just take a number and wait outside. On a hot day, Ai Ye said she waited for a long time without getting her turn, so she had to make two trips. It was not easy at all.

The public does not trust the official response

In the past few days, the topic “Bank’s response about the frozen accounts of many Shenzhen depositors is very confusing” entering the hot searches. Some people expressed their displeasure that domestic bank cards were frozen too many times.

“Frozen cards” are divided into two categories, one is the phone card, including mobile phone cards, internet cards or daily-use communication cards that can connect to the internet; the second is the bank card, including personal bank cards, personal payment accounts, business bank accounts, payment cards and account of non-bank payment institutions such as WeChat and Alipay, and other third party accounts.

Shi Ming (pseudonym), a Chongqing citizen currently doing business in Japan, told The Epoch Times, “Some of my friends in Shenzhen have had their cards inexplicably ‘frozen,’ the banks ran out of money and started stealing people’s money.”

He said that “the act of freezing the card” has significantly affected people’s lives, including being unable to transfer money, receive money, make payments, or even sell shares; and sometimes this causes great economic losses, such as someone unable to pay a signed contract, unable to sell stocks, and money may be lost in the future.

Ou Kai, a Japanese commentator on current affairs, believes it is likely that banks have used depositors’ money to fill the government’s financial loophole.

He told The Epoch Times that the local government has accumulated high debts, which are not only debts to the government on the surface, but also debts related to some projects of local state-owned enterprises. Pandemic lockdown measures and “dynamic clearing” controls have further aggravated local debt.

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