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Human Rights in China Files Lawsuit Against the Bank of China

June 14, 2002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New York, NY (June 14, 2002) For the first time ever, Human Rights in China (HRIC) filed a suit against the Bank of China (BOC) in federal court in New York City on June 10, 2002, charging that the BOC assisted the government of China in the confiscation of humanitarian funds destined for the surviving families of the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre. The funds ($20,000 U.S.) were transferred to the Bank of China account of Jane Lee* in June, 1999. At the end of July, Ms. Lee was detained and interrogated by the Beijing police, and forced to withdraw the money from her account. That money was then confiscated by the authorities. Repeated efforts to have the funds returned to Human Rights in China have failed.

“Human Rights in China frequently provides support to the families of Tiananmen victims, many of whom have been ostracized and harassed because they have demanded accountability for the events of June 4, 1989. We are shocked to discover that the Bank of China, which we believed to be a reputable international institution, behaved, in this incident like a pawn of the government. If the Bank wants to be taken seriously by the international business community, it should show its independence by returning our funds to us, and committing itself to reliable banking practices in the future,” declared Sharon Hom, and attorney and Acting Executive Director of Human Rights in China.

Human Rights in China is asking the court for a return of the funds and additional punitive damages. A fact sheet attached here provides details on the case.

*Jane Lee is a fictitious name to protect the identity of the witness.

Human Rights in China Lawsuit Against the Bank of China

BACKGROUND

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has filed a lawsuit against the Bank of China (BOC) regarding $20,000 that was intended to support families of victims of the Tiananmen Massacre, but was instead confiscated by the government with assistance from BOC. On June 14, 1999, HRIC transferred $20,000 from its Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City to the BOC account of Jane Lee, a Chinese citizen residing in Beijing, China. The employee filling out the transfer request form identified the sender as “Human Rights in China” instead of “HRIC”, used previously in such efforts in order not to arouse suspicion. When the error was discovered, HRIC immediately contacted Chase, who in turn notified BOC, on June 15 and asked that the transfer be canceled. BOC replied that the $20,000 had been transferred to its Beijing branch and the funds would be reverted to Chase upon receipt of a reply from the Beijing branch. On June 25 BOC notified Chase that its Beijing branch had effected payment to the beneficiary on June 16 and that they were unable to return the funds. In reality, these funds remained in Jane Lee’s BOC account until July 27, at which time, the Beijing police interrogated Jane Lee against her will. On July 29, 1999, Ms. Lee was forced to withdraw these funds from BOC’s Beijing branch. During the period when BOC was alleging to Chase that it was attempting to retrieve the funds, BOC was, in fact, cooperating with and assisting the Chinese government to facilitate the arrest of Jane Lee and the confiscation of the $20,000.

CAUSE OF ACTION

HRIC brings forth Ten Causes of Action against BOC: Fraud, Aiding and Abetting a Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Unjust Enrichment, Conversion, Breach of Express Contract, Breach of Implied Contract, Breach of Implied Covenant of Commercial Good Faith and Fair Dealing and Breach of Duty To Act in a Commercially Reasonable Manner, Money Had and Received, and Uniform Commercial Code Article 4-A. BOC knowingly made false statements and omissions in its communications to Chase regarding the status of the $20,000 and thereby HRIC was deliberately misled about the funds. BOC could have alerted the Chinese government about the transfer. BOC, a federally chartered bank by the United States government that is engaged in commercial activities within the United States, violated laws of the State of New York by deceiving HRIC and participating in the theft.

REDRESS

HRIC is demanding in judgment the repayment of the initial $20,000, an amount relating to damages sustained by the intended beneficiaries, and $10,000,000 in punitive damages. A redress in punitive damages is necessary to deter future participation and assistance in the theft of funds from human rights organizations such as HRIC. HRIC has declared that the return of the stolen funds alone is not enough of a deterrent to ensure that similar acts will not be committed in the future.

For further information, contact:
Sharon Hom 212-239-4495 (English)
Liu Qing 212-239-4495 (Chinese)

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