Several depositors in the Chinese city of Shenzhen reported that their bank accounts were inexplicably frozen. A local bank’s response provoked outrage and condemnation from netizens.

Many netizens reported that they could not withdraw cash or transfer funds from their bank cards at the Bank of China in Shenzhen as the accounts were frozen.

On August 11th, China Business News also reported that several branches of the Bank of China in Shenzhen informed customers via their phones that if they have encountered abnormal use of their bank cards recently, they should go to the bank’s desks or log in to its phone app to handle the issue.

The news outlet’s reporter visited many banks in Shenzhen and found that many people were waiting to address the problem.

A staff member told the reporter that the customers came to unlock their frozen bank cards. 

He explained that the bank took a measure to cooperate with the public security department in a so-called “card breaking” operation. The Bank of China was required to check each account, and the bank card would be frozen if it identified the funds were at risk.

The staff said that customers could go to the bank’s offices or log in to the bank app for processing, which will be settled within 2-3 working days under normal circumstances.

A depositor told the reporter that he filled in the bank’s complaint form and uploaded relevant information on the bank app on August 9th. But, so far, he still cannot withdraw money. 

The appeal process is relatively complicated. The customer must submit relevant information such as an ID card, social security status, residential address, and work certificate.

The reporter found that many other banks, such as China Construction Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Postal Savings Bank, also implemented the “card breaking” operation. There were even long queues at the gates of some bank offices.

According to China’s First Financial, the Chinese authorities introduced the “card breaking” operation in October 2020. The process was designed to trace and crack down on the illegal and criminal activities of selling telephone cards and bank cards.

But the banks’ actions sparked outrage and criticism from netizens.

Weibo account “Naughty Guo Beile” questioned if the banks’ operation was appropriate when they cut off the customers’ bank cards before providing evidence of crimes.

Guo Beile claimed that without notice, prompt, or even reason, the banks couldn’t freeze the customers’ accounts. And though criminals may be exposed, people’s lives are deeply affected.

Popular real estate blogger “Chen Haoqing” complained that a Shenzhen branch of the Bank of China had frozen depositors’ accounts without authorization. He doubted if the reason was to prevent financial fraud for depositors.

Lawyer Wang Chengyan raised the question that if a depositor is in a hurry to use the money for medical treatment, will the banks be held responsible for their action?

The financial blogger “PI Friends’ Home” commented that the card-breaking operation is really stupid.

Other mainland netizens said that not many fraudsters had been caught in the end, but the lives of ordinary people had been severely tossed.

Although the Chinese authorities claimed the card-breaking operation is aimed at cracking down on telecommunication and network frauds, observers believe there are other reasons for their move.

Li Wei, a person in the Chinese blockchain industry, said that cracking down on fraud is a small part. The primary purpose of the “card breaking” operation is to prevent the outflow of funds.

He also believes that the card-breaking operation is the authorities’ preparation for vigorously promoting the digital renminbi. 

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