EFEBeijing

China on Monday urged Spain to protect the rights and interests of Chinese residents in the European country after they alleged that their bank accounts had been blocked because of money laundering regulations.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang's request to the Spanish government came after hundreds of Chinese citizens protested on Friday against the BBVA, saying the bank discriminated against them and blocked their accounts despite completing necessary documentation required under anti-money laundering law.

"The Chinese Embassy in Spain recently received some Chinese citizens (living) in Spain and also students who reported that their accounts cannot be used and the embassy has raised its concern (over this issue)," Geng said at a press conference.

"China is committed to protecting the interests of its citizens overseas and we hope the Spanish government will ensure that Chinese citizens' rights and interests are protected," Geng said.

Hundreds of Chinese living in Spain showed up on Friday in front of the headquarters of the BBVA Foundation in Madrid to demand the unblocking of their accounts.

The protesters insisted that they had done nothing wrong and their accounts remain blocked even after providing the required documentation.

On Friday, the Chinese Embassy counselor, Zhu Jian, accused the banks of being racially discriminatory against the Chinese community because they took the steps owing to the nationality of their clients.

The BBVA, however, has denied the charges of discrimination and expressed profound regret at the damage caused to its customers, while at the same time admitted it was complying with regulations to prevent any money laundering.

According to the BBVA, all clients of financial institutions must have proper documentation, without distinction, as the legislation called for a very severe response which may lead to a termination of the banking relationship.

Meanwhile, the Spanish banking association AEB alleged that the blockade was because the customers have not provided the necessary information.

CEO of China FM radio that broadcasts in Spain, Dawei Ding, said that coinciding with the Chinese New Year, on Feb. 5, there was a massive freezing of accounts causing much unease in the Chinese community.

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