Amid this year’s tumultuous stock market plunges, it’s been easy to lose sight of another massive collapse that resulted in huge losses for investors across the country.
The Fanya Metal Exchange investment scheme began to show signs of crisis in April. Since then, media reports have detailed the losses inflicted on around 220,000 investors.
Liu Chunxiu (pseudonym) is a 52 year old retiree living in Urumqi, Xinjiang. Too sick and poor to travel to the capital to join the protests, she spoke with TWOC over the phone about how she lost over 500,000 yuan in the scheme.
*The World of Chinese does not verify or endorse the statements of petitioners in this segment, and views expressed by the interviewee are not necessarily the views of TWOC. The World of Chinese does not challenge or endorse the statements regarding court judgments or allegations that may be made by the interviewee. Names may be redacted where the editorial staff deem pertinent, and, if requested, a pseudonym will be used for the interviewee’s protection. The petitioners who come to Beijing are some of the most diverse, interesting, patriotic, and heroic people in China. These are their stories.
–Managing Editor, Tyler Roney
How and when did you become a part of this scheme?
It was June of 2013. I was in a Bank of China in Urumqi. I was told about a financial product, I don’t remember the exact name.
But you were told about it in a Bank of China?
Yes, it was a Bank of China. They told me it was zero risk, and that you couldn’t lose money. They said you could withdraw your money any time you wanted. All the money that you invested was yours and nobody could take it away. They said it was even on CCTV. I just wanted to invest in something secure. I thought to myself “if you don’t trust the national bank, you don’t trust the government.” Of course I trusted it.
So what were the conditions?
You had to put at least 100,000 yuan into a Bank of China bank card. This was how much I put in at first. It informed you via text message whenever there was a new deposit.
What kind of returns were you getting?
It was a 12 percent annualized return. I received payment every three months.
So what happened?
I kept getting profits until June of this year. I never withdrew any money during this time. In April I had put in a lot more, including money intended for my daughter’s wedding and my husband’s bankruptcy payouts. I also sold funds that I had with another bank to put more money into it. I wasn’t worried about it because I kept getting text messages saying how much money I had made. In total, including the profits from both this fund and all the other money, I had 530,000 in there.
So what went wrong in June?
In April I was diagnosed with spinal problems. I had to have surgery, so I needed money. By the time I was aware of all the expenses it was June, I called the bank saying I wanted my money. They said that because the stock market was going crazy, people were investing a lot and everyone was withdrawing money. They said that this meant they were having cashflow problems and couldn’t give me the cash.
So you didn’t have savings elsewhere?
I was among those made redundant in a wave of privatizations of state-owned companies, for me this happened in 2003. I had been an inspector of construction materials, such as sand and concrete. My husband also worked in the construction business. His business went bankrupt in 2009. Everything we had was in that Fanya account. I ended up borrowing 87,000 yuan for that surgery, which happened later, in October.
Ok, so tell me more about what happened after your account was frozen.
In September I went to a Bank of China in Urumqi to protest. We don’t have much education, we don’t know much about all this. I am just laobaixing (老百姓 ordinary person). I met other protesters at the bank, they said “you don’t know about this?”
I went back later that month alone, on September 21st. I was stopped by some police, who asked for my ID. They took photos of the ID card and told me to leave. They yelled at me and said if I didn’t leave, they were going to arrest me. I said “我只剩半条命了，你们想把我抓去哪就抓吧” “I am only half alive, you want to arrest me, go ahead.”
I was really upset at the time, so I was being a little aggressive. They said that because I wasn’t following their orders, I was interfering with their work.
The next day my neighborhood’s local police station sent police along with the neighborhood committee chief to my house. They asked me questions and took pictures of me. They told me I couldn’t go out alone on my own. This was difficult because I had to go to the hospital for my treatments. I told the officers “you need to follow me, I understand, but keep your distance so you don’t humiliate me.”
I think the neighborhood chief sympathized with my situation and sent me meals for a few days. The chief asked me if I planned to go to Beijing to protest. I said “I have no money to protest. If you give me some, I can go.” I was kidding, but I signed the agreement because I didn’t have the strength to go there anyway.
How did the surgery go?
The surgery happened on the 22nd of October. It lasted a day and a half. The surgery went pretty well but afterwards something happened, and I got a fever of over 40 degrees. I went into a coma for three days. I think all the stress from these problems affected me; I was in a lot of pain. I left the hospital on November 7th. My wound didn’t begin to heal for three days. I almost died and it’s a miracle I can still sit up and talk to you. I thought about giving up, but my husband had cared for me so much I felt I couldn’t do it. He’s over 60.
What is your hope for the future?
(Liu sounded as though she was in tears. In a weak voice): What do you think? What are the chances we can actually get the money back?
Check out our earlier Petitioners’ Tales entries:
Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4, Vol. 5, Vol. 6, Vol. 7, Vol. 8, Vol. 9.
Header image shows a protest from September 21, on Beijing’s financial street. Protesters were asking the central government to intervene in the Fanya case, accusing the metals exchange of fraud.
Image also shows an advertisement flyer for Fanya’s “Ri Jinbao” financial product.
Images provided by other Fanya protesters.
Interview condensed and edited for clarity and brevity.