Thousands of protesters converged on a train station in central China, angered over collapsing illegal investment schemes that residents said the government had failed to staunch, according to news reports and a government notice yesterday.
On Sunday, the protesters faced rows of police at the railway station in Anyang, Henan Province, where some residents said they wanted to board trains to Beijing to lodge their complaints, Hong Kong’s Ming Pao daily reported.
Pictures in that paper and on a Chinese microblogging site showed thousands of people milling around the square in front of the station, while police watched. The photographs, which could not be verified, showed no scenes of violence.
However, news reports over past months have shown that collapsing illegal investment schemes have become a serious problem for the government in Anyang, a heavily rural area of 5.2 million people about 500km southwest of Beijing.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) worries that the tens of thousands of sporadic protests over land grabs, corruption and economic grievances that break out across the country every year could coalesce into discontent that threatens its control. And Anyang, with its mix of economic grievances and suggestions of corruption, illustrates the discontent driving many protests.
On Monday, the Anyang government issued a notice acknowledging the protest and vowed to take tougher action against the investment schemes, that have promised investors much higher returns than can be gained from banks.
“On New Year’s Day, our city experienced a mass demonstration by some people who participated in illegal investments,” the notice from Anyang CCP Secretary Zhang Guangzhi (張廣智) said.
Although officials managed to contain the protest, Zhang said, “this incident has exposed weak links in our handling of the illegal investment schemes.”
In October, a Chinese newspaper, the 21st Century Business Herald, reported that many operators of the illegal investment vehicles in Anyang had fled as their schemes for generating high returns from real estate and other investments began to unravel.
Police have also launched investigations into schemes involving hundreds of suspects, the Ming Pao newspaper said.
However, Web sites for Anyang residents have echoed with allegations that officials were tardy in cracking down on the schemes.
“If the government hadn’t abetted this, there would never have been so many illegal investment schemes,” said one earlier message on the Chinese Internet operator Baidu.com’s site for Anyang residents.