Wuhan activist Zhang Hai's bank card, online payments frozen in murky move

Zhang says the move is likely retaliation for his lawsuit against the city authorities over his father's death.
By Gao Feng
2022.06.03
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Wuhan activist Zhang Hai's bank card, online payments frozen in murky move An exterior view of the Nanyou branch of the Bank of China in Shenzhen, in a file photo.
Reuters

Wuhan-based activist Zhang Hai, who has campaigned for redress after his father died in the early days of the pandemic, has had restrictions placed on his bank account, RFA.

Zhang, who has been an outspoken critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since the pandemic prompted a city-wide lockdown in Wuhan and killed his father, said he believes the move is a form of official retaliation.

Zhang was recently asked to submit additional proof of ID in recent transactions via his account at the Bank of China Nantou branch in the southern city of Shenzhen, where he currently lives.

Similar restrictions have been placed on several of his bank cards since the beginning of this year, he told RFA, while online banking transactions often fail to go through, he said.

"The card I have is an ordinary bank card, which is linked to my mobile phone," Zhang said. "All of the cards under my name are  restricted, meaning that I can't do online transactions using payment services like WeChat Pay and Alipay, only cash."

"The way things are in China right now, so many places rely on those services to accept payment, and some places don't want cash at all, even if I offer it," he said.

Staff at the Nantou Bank of China branch initially said the restrictions were requested by the Wuhan city police department, Zhang said.

"The first time I went, they said that the Wuhan police had me under investigation, and had placed the restrictions," Zhang said.

"I went there yesterday, and they told me the bank card had been flagged by their own risk control mechanism, which made me feel as if they were just trying to inconvenience me," he said.

"They wanted me to submit further proofs, but then they said all of my cards were under investigation by Wuhan police," he said.

Zhang filed a lawsuit suing the Wuhan municipal government and a hospital over the wrongful death of his father in 2020, who died of COVID-19 after visiting a doctor in the early days of the pandemic, when the authorities hadn't warned anyone about the virus.

He has also given many interviews to foreign media outlets in recent years.

"I have been called in to 'drink tea' by the local state security police," he said. "The Wuhan city government is furious with me, and have used all of their power to deal with me."

"The entire service sector in China, including banks, has to take orders from the government," he said.

Similar restrictions

Rights attorney Ren Quanniu, whose lawyer's license was revoked by the authorities last year, said his bank card had been placed under similar restrictions last year.

"My Bank of Communications card was restricted some time ago. I went to the bank to report it, and they said it was under investigation," Ren said. "I asked by which department, and they said that was confidential."

"But it wasn't the police or a court, so it's my guess that it was the state security police," he said.

He said the bank should honor the terms of its contract with customers in the absence of any judicial proceedings.

"The bank has no right to inquire about customers' transactions or how they use the funds," Ren said. "So the problem with his account is clearly some action behind the scenes."

"If there is a problem, the department should issue a document saying the account-holder is suspected of law-breaking and then the account will be frozen or restricted openly," Ren said.

"But there has been no document issued [regarding Zhang], nor any result from any investigation," he said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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