Chinese customers stage protest accusing Spain’s BBVA Bank of racism

Hundreds of Chinese have gathered outside the Spain’s second largest bank – Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria’s (BBVA’s) Madrid office, staging protest and accusing the bank of being ‘racist’, for freezing their accounts without giving any warning.

Carrying the national flags of China and Spain, the protesters shouted slogans – “Justice now, No to racism”, Racist BBVA” and “Stop banking racism”.

The protesters said that the bank is demanding far more details and is making the process more complicated for Chinese citizens working in Spain. They also claimed that rules and regulations are much simpler for Spaniards.

One of the protesters – Dawein Ding, Sr. Vice President of Chinese Radio Station in Madrid, said “For a Spaniard to open a bank account they just have to show their identification card, whereas Chinese citizens have to deliver much more paperwork such as evidence of their work life like payslips and contracts.” The bank has blocked the accounts of 5000 Chinese working in Spain. Though the bank apologised for freezing the accounts, it denied charges of being racist. It said that accounts have been frozen in compliance with the Spain’s anti-money laundering laws.

BBVA Spokesman – Álvaro Calleja said, “We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience caused by our decision to block certain customers’ bank accounts over the last few days. We are sensitive to these circumstances and we have rolled out the measures required to mitigate these impacts. For BBVA and for everyone that works at the bank, customers are at the heart of our activity, and we absolutely and unequivocally reject any form of unjustified discrimination.”

For the records, Spain has strengthened its anti-money laundering law in 2018. The anti-money laundering law in Spain requires account holders to properly identify themselves and prove that the amount transferred in their bank accounts is compatible with their taxable incomes. In case, any individual fails to do so, the bank has the right to take the appropriate action, irrespective of the account holder’s nationality.

So far, no other bank in Spain has witnessed any such protest from Chinese customers.

In the meantime, the Deputy Director-General of China’s Department of Consular Affairs – Chen Xiongfeng has summoned the Spanish envoy in Beijing to discuss the issue. During the meeting, he told the Spanish envoy that since the beginning of 2018, the Embassy of China in Spain has received numerous complaints from Chinese citizens and students that their bank accounts are being frozen without prior notice. Post this, the Spanish Foreign Ministry has sought an explanation from the Central Bank of Spain and the related financial institutions over the concerns raised by China.

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