Thousands of protesters confronted armed police on New Year's day as they expressed their anger over multi-million-dollar investment scams in central China’s Henan province, eyewitnesses said.
The angry mob converged on a train station in Anyang city, voicing their indignation over investment losses, and threatened to board trains to Beijing to petition the central government.
The authorities dispatched as many as 1,000 armed police to block the train station, forbidding anyone from entering or leaving it. Some of the protesters even challenged the police to fire on them.
The protesters gradually dispersed from the scene in the evening without a clash.
But the Anyang city government said on Monday that 21 suspected organizers of the protest had been taken into police custody.
“Our money has been bilked away,” complained a victim, who only gave his surname as Li, saying that large business groups had cheated the people of hundreds of millions of dollars.
“In the past several days, the police have been investigating the incident, beating and arresting several people.”
A telephone call to the Anyang city government was picked up by an employee who declined to discuss the matter.
“No, I know nothing about the incident you mentioned. You might want to contact our information office for more details,” the man said.
But phone calls to the city information office were not answered.
Real estate links
“Some real estate agents from other cities have been involved in the investment scams as well,” said a businessman surnamed Liu.
“Most of them will go broke this time,” Liu added.
Over the past several months, people in Anyang city have been plagued by various collapsed illegal investment schemes that had promised investors very high returns.
After the scams were exposed, many of the organizers fled, leaving investors infuriated by the government’s weak enforcement.
Following the Jan. 1 protests, the Anyang city authorities have promised to take strong action against those behind investment scams.
Reported by Qiao Long from Hong Kong for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Ping Chen.