More than 25 Chinese investors have gone missing after being arrested in Beijing just before a planned protest, Quartz reports.
The investors were detained by police on October 25, the day before the scheduled protest about the Fanya Metal Exchange, a small scale exchange which has attracted around 230,000 investors in recent years.
The exchange was founded in 2011, and describes itself as a “minor metals spot trading exchange” but is now suspected to be one big Ponzi scheme. On its English language website, the exchange claims to have an accumulated turnover of more than RMB 325 billion (£33 billion; $US51 billion).
Quartz reports that all trading has ceased on the exchange and that investors have been unable to access any money invested into the exchange since April this year. Since the exchange stopped trading, Chinese investors have organised a series of peaceful protests to complain about losing their money, and lobby the government for help in recovering the funds.
In September, an investor at a protest in Beijing told Reuters “We were protesting today because we have no other option and no one has responded to our complaints,”
Protesting in such a manner is allowed by Article 35 of the the Chinese constitution, which states “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” However, in reality, such freedoms are rarely enjoyed, and the arrest and disappearance of these protest organisers is testament to that.
According to the report by Quartz, the Chinese government is implementing a harsh crackdown on protesters who are hoping that the government will intervene to recoup some of the suspected $US6 billion lost.
Quartz also reports that 28 of the planned protest’s organisers were arrested on the night before the event at an evening meeting. Since then, none of the 28 investors families or friends have heard anything from them.
The families of seven of the detainees telling them that their loved one has been held for “gathering crowds to disturb public order,” but the other 21 have not been heard from in any way. The charge faced by the seven investors who have been detained could lead to a five-year jail term.
The whereabouts of the 21 organisers is completely unknown, and until any more information is given by police, it seems unlikely that they will be found.
Investors originally told Quartz that they believe around 2,800 people planning to attend the 10,000 strong protest in Beijing had been detained by the police on October 25. Most were released the next morning, and sent home under the watch of government officials.