Voices of July: “Henan Banks, Return Our Savings!”

Voices of July” continues CDT’s monthly “Voices of …” collection of viral and censored audio-visual content from all over China. Inspired by the original audio-visual compilation “Voices of April,” which was the target of intense government and platform censorship, the series seeks to circumvent censorship by amplifying the voices of Chinese citizens under various forms of lockdown and repression. CDT will continue to compile, translate, and publish these videos for as long as Chinese government censors seek to silence them.

“Voices of July” begins and ends with three events that captured the nation’s attention that month: a nationwide wave of mortgage payment boycotts, continuing protests by depositors of Henan’s troubled rural banks, and the emblematic story of a young Zhengzhou couple struggling to make mortgage payments on their home in a long-stalled construction project. Other content includes censored remembrances of the victims of the 2021 flooding in Zhengzhou, Henan, and censored expressions of concern for the four women who were brutally attacked by a gang of men outside a Tangshan BBQ restaurant after one of the women rejected unwelcome sexual advances. Some content focuses on backlashes against unchecked pandemic control policies: the proposed use of tracking bracelets for home quarantine, blocked emergency exits in housing complexes under lockdown, elderly people being vaccinated without consent, and contract tracing methods based not on physical location, but on membership in certain WeChat groups. A major theme of “Voices of July” is citizens standing up for their rights, whether as homeowners, bank depositors, safety-conscious residents, or in the case of “Chongqing Telephone Guy,” folks who just want to give the local authorities a piece of their mind.

The following video is the Chinese-language version of “Voices of July.” The complete English transcript, with all captions and dialogue, appears below:

“Voices of July” Transcript

Since July, a number of homeowners’ groups have announced mortgage payment boycotts on stalled construction projects, setting off a nationwide chain reaction. According to a Github project, there are 300+ stalled real-estate projects across the country.

Man: “This nationwide wave of mortgage boycotts shows that collective action is much more effective than individual efforts. If a system becomes dysfunctional, it will inevitably be challenged.”

Netizens were riveted by the saga of a young couple from Zhengzhou struggling to defend their legal rights and make mortgage payments on a home in one such stalled project.

Young man: “All we want is to work hard and pay our mortgage, and for the developer to deliver the house they promised us, that’s all.”

On July 10, three months after some of Henan’s troubled rural banks froze withdrawls, depositors once again converged on the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to demand the return of their savings.

Woman [phone call audio]: “Does having a bank account make me a criminal? You’ve been shadowing me everywhere I go. And today you’re asking me what train I rode, when I left, and how long I’m staying. What gives you the right? It’s my private business.”

 

Voices of July 2022

June 24, 2022

A Meituan food delivery man described his hard-scrabble existence: “No matter how good the next life, I don’t want to be reincarnated.”

Delivery driver: “I’m a man in my forties. And what have I got to show for it? Not enough money. Not enough time for my kids. Not able to do right by my folks, who are getting old. It’s after 9:00 at night, and I’m still rushing around for chump change. It’s exhausting.”

 

June 25, 2022

A netizen vented about official media reports on high gas prices in the U.S: “Why can you see the dust on other people’s faces, but not the shit on your own face?”

Woman in video: “The Economic Daily says high gas prices are inflicting pain on American consumers. How do you think we feel? Reporting like that is despicable, and downright shameless. It’s an insult to our intelligence.”

 

June 26, 2022

Angry depositors of troubled rural banks protested in front of the Henan branch of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Bureau in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital of Henan province.

Man: “The date is June 26. We’re at the Banking and Insurance Regulatory Bureau. These depositors, they can’t take it anymore. They’re in shock, complete shock. These are just ordinary people. Ordinary folks!”

 

June 27, 2022

In advance of hosting the 2023 Universiade, the city of Chengdu changed all of the shop signs on one street from Chinese to pinyin romanization.

A local businesswoman: “Business is hard enough as it is, and now you can’t even read the signs. It’s so frustrating. But do the authorities even care? The complaint hotline gave me some highfalutin explanation, but didn’t resolve the problem.”

 

June 28, 2022

Liang Xiaomen, an observer at a Minnesota court hearing in Liu Jingyao’s civil suit against JD.com’s Liu Qiangdong (Richard Liu) for battery and sexual assault, responded to the defendant’s leak of a surveillance video and his claim that the plaintiff “consented” to sexual relations with him.

Liang Xiaomen: “Jingyao provided the lawyers with a large amount of witness testimony and video evidence to prove that she never consented—not at the banquet or in the limo, not explicitly or implicitly—to sexual intercourse with Liu Qiangdong. He even admitted as much in his deposition.”

 

July 1, 2022

Hong Kong singer and actor Jacky Cheung was accused of being unpatriotic when he neglected to use the term “Motherland” to congratulate Hong Kong on the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty.

Jacky Cheung: “I still think that this city … I still hope that this city can become even better than it was before. ‘Add oil,’ Hong Kong!”

 

July 2, 2022

A 2020 training video in which National Judicial Exam tutor Du Hongbo discusses the issue of constitutional amendments went viral after it was reposted on Bilibili. The account that posted it was later banned.

Du Hongbo: “Even if you re-elect the guy, you need elections. If you let him stay in power, with no elections, it becomes monotonous. A five-year term is better. That way, every five years, you’ll have the people’s endorsement. Think about it.”

 

July 2, 2022

Pandemic policy thwarted a wedding in Jiangsu, where a security guard stopped the groom from crossing a cordon to kiss his bride.

Wedding guests:

“Come on, let him give her a kiss!”

“What, he can’t even kiss her?”

 

July 4, 2022

A Chongqing man held up a placard asking what happened to the four young women who were brutally beaten at a restaurant in Tangshan, Hebei province, in June 2022.

Placard reads: “Where are the four girls?”

 

July 4, 2022

Residents of a housing complex under lockdown in Shanghai’s Putuo district discovered that their emergency fire exit was blocked.

Residents:

“How can they block our emergency exit? It defies common sense, plus it’s illegal.”

“They don’t have orders from the district government. They just did this on their own.”

 

July 4, 2022

Shanghai job recruitment ads discriminate against workers who have recovered from COVID-19: “Those who have been in quarantine or tested positive need not apply.”

Unemployed worker: “A lot of jobs won’t hire you if you’ve had COVID. This ad for a quarantine hotel says: ‘No former volunteers, positive cases, or quarantine center workers. Lying will result in fines and docked wages.’ Last time I looked for a job, the first question the guy asked was, ‘Have you ever had COVID?’ It was his first question.”

 

July 5, 2022

College and university students fled Xi’an the night before a week-long lockdown went into effect.

 

July 10, 2022

Depositors of Henan’s troubled rural banks who gathered to demand the return of their savings faced off against plainclothes security personnel.

Demonstrators: “Henan banks, return our savings! Henan banks, return our savings! Henan banks, return our savings!”

Loudspeaker: “Despite our attempts to mediate, you’ve refused to disperse. Picking quarrels and provoking trouble is a threat to public order. Law enforcement will take measures and deal severely with violators. To those persons gathered here, you may be in violation of the law. You have ten minutes to disperse …”

 

July 10, 2022

Pandemic personnel in Shanghai’s Qingpu district called up a man and told him: “Because you’re a member of a karaoke bar WeChat group, you’re being monitored as a ‘secondary close contact’ for COVID.”

[phone call audio]

Pandemic Officer: “You’re in the WeChat karaoke group.”

Man: “Yes, but that’s not illegal, is it?”

Officer: “No, not at this time. We’re asking for guidance on that from higher-ups.”

Man: “COVID can’t be spread online, surely? I’ve never even been to that karaoke place!”

 

July 14, 2022

After a neighborhood committee on Shanghai’s Linfen Road secretly gave COVID-19 vaccinations to older residents, an elderly man became critically ill.

Woman: “Show me the doctor’s order. My grandpa is 98 and his hearing is bad. Did he ever agree to this? Did he ever say, ‘I consent to be vaccinated?’ Did he ever say that?”

[Neighborhood committee member shakes his head.]

Woman: “He never said that, did he?”

 

July 14, 2022

In a CCTV interview, a virologist was asked: “In light of mutations to the virus, how should we respond to the Omicron BA.5 variant?” The show was eventually taken offline.

Virologist: “In terms of its pathology, as I was saying, this variant is much less likely to cause serious disease. In other words, we used to think that SARS-CoV-2 mainly caused damage to the lungs, but now we’re talking about the Omicron variant, which affects the throat or upper respiratory tract. It causes flu-like symptoms, not serious symptoms such as pneumonia.” [There has been conflicting evidence about the relative severity of symptoms and outcomes from Omicron.]

 

July 15, 2022

A new policy in Yuncheng, Shanxi province, required parents to show proof of social security payments in order for their children to matriculate at a new school. Some complained it discriminated against migrants and the unemployed.

Local official, reading a statement: “If migrant workers want their children to matriculate, they must provide proof of social security payments and residence permits.”

Man in video: “School registration is rough this year. Too rough. All these people, it’s quite a sight! And how long is that line? It stretches all the way to the street!”

 

July 17, 2022

Herders lined up for COVID testing on the grasslands of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu province.

 

July 18, 2022

Some residents of Baishizhou, a village in Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, fled when the area was locked down due to newly detected cases of COVID-19.

 

July 18, 2022

“Chongqing Telephone Guy,” a frequent caller to the 12345 citizen complaint hotline, calls again to express his opposition to routine COVID testing.

Telephone Guy [phone call audio]: “It makes absolutely no sense. They’ve made us a global laughingstock. They’re supposed to be educated people, or at least logical, but you have to wonder about the person who came up with this policy.”

 

July 18, 2022

Authorities in Beijing required individuals returning to the city to wear electronic “home isolation and monitoring” bracelets, which collect personal data without user consent. [Bracelets were reportedly withdrawn after public complaints.]

Man in video: “It’s worth noting that it lacks a GPS chip and relies on mobile phone location data collected without the user’s consent. Deleting the data requires a written request. I hope we don’t ever have to wear these.”

 

July 20, 2022

On the first anniversary of the Zhengzhou flooding, netizens reposted a video from last year showing Zhengzhou residents berating a foreign correspondent.

Angry local man: “Report the truth, the truth. Have a positive view of our country. Don’t attack us. You want to interview me? No, I won’t do an interview. I hate you.”

 

On July 20, 2021, residents laid flowers at a Zhengzhou metro station to commemorate those who had drowned there. In July 2022, the authorities prevented citizens from leaving flowers to mark the anniversary of Zhengzhou’s devastating floods.

After protests by depositors of Henan’s troubled rural banks, officials announced that beginning on July 15, account holders with balances of 50,000 yuan ($7,400) or less would be reimbursed.

As the ripple effect of nationwide loan boycotts spreads, real-estate industry suppliers teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, many construction projects remain stalled, and there is widespread public concern about underlying systemic risks in the banking and financial sectors.

In a media interview, the struggling young couple from Zhengzhou said they had decided not to boycott mortgage payments on their still-unfinished home, for fear that it might harm the prospects of any children they might have, but they hoped the project would resume construction soon.

Young man: “We have no choice but to sell things online. We get home from work at 7:00, eat dinner, livestream for four to five hours, then go to work again the next day. You think that’s easy? All we want to do is live a simple life. But we still hold out hope that construction on our home will resume.”

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