More than 1,000 disgruntled investors in a metals exchange trading company protested outside government offices in the southwestern province of Yunnan, holding banners calling on the authorities to investigate the company for alleged mis-selling of its financial products.
The protesters, who said they had lost funds invested in the Yunnan-based Fanya Metal Exchange, traveled from across China, gathering outside government offices in the provincial capital Kunming on Monday.
Wearing T-shirts and holding national flags, the protesters shouted "Report our complaint! Investigate Fanya! Give us back our sweat and blood! Take responsibility, Yunnan!"
Several hundred investors have staged protests outside the China Securities Regulatory Commission in Beijing last month, but were dispersed by police, reports said.
A Yunnan protester from Shanghai surnamed Wang said his parents were among those who lost their savings in Fanya's Rijinbao metals scheme.
"My parents poured all of their retirement funds into this scheme, and they have been so devastated by its loss that they have wound up in the hospital," Wang said.
"They also borrowed some money [to invest in Fanya] ... I don't know what happened."
A second protester who declined to be named said many investors in the scheme are close to despair over the loss of their funds.
"All we wanted was a secure and reliable income; the sort of thing that is suitable for one's old age," the protester said. "We didn't dare to touch the stock market, because it's too volatile and we ... could bear that much risk."
"[We chose Fanya] because their publicity material was all across the mainstream media, including CCTV and Yunnan Financial TV," he said.
"It was also backed by some figures in the Yunnan provincial government and the Kunming municipal government."
"We thought that this would be a trustworthy company, if it had government backing," said the investor, who sunk 200,000 yuan [U.S. $31,600] into the market.
But investors noticed diminishing returns on their investments in March, and no payouts were made at all after July, he said.
"I am getting close to retirement, and it wasn't easy for me to save that amount," he said.
"But the government is ignoring calls from hundreds of thousands of investors; they really don't care if ordinary people are ruined," he said.
Spot trading of nonferrous metals
The Fanya Metal Exchange was set up in March 2011 as the first electronic exchange house for the spot trading of nonferrous metals in China, local media reported at the time.
"The platform will reflect the supply and demand status, based on market-oriented nonferrous metal trading there, and will promote the marketization of the domestic and overseas nonferrous metal market," media reports said.
The exchange trades 14 minor and rare metals, including indium, bismuth, tungsten, antimony and cobalt, and attracted billions of yuan from investors who bet on higher prices, building up huge stocks of metals in its authorized warehouses.
Some 220,000 investors bought metals on the exchange, but prices have been hit by a slowing economy, and the company now has too much inventory to sustain prices.
Investors are claiming that Fanya failed to warn investors about the potential risks involved.
Last July, Fanya issued a statement confirming that it was experiencing liquidity problems after large numbers of investors tried to withdraw their cash at the same time.
Last month, Fanya investors surrounded company chairman Shan Jiuliang at a hotel in Shanghai and took him to police, who later released him.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.