“Xu Mingxing! Give my money back!” In the late fall in Beijing, victims from all over China were protesting in front of the building of OKCoin’s headquarter. They wanted to defend their right to compensation.
Xu Mingxing, the object of their rage, is the founder of two Bitcoin exchange platforms: OKCoin and OKEx. These two exchange companies have been extensively questioned by the public due to their complicated and mysterious relationships with each other.
Rong Fan (alias), a high school classmate of Xu Mingxing, became one of these protesters thanks to an outage this September. He has lost up to 0.8 million RMB, which equals around 0.14 million dollars.
He tried to contact Xu and question him, only to be told: "You are just too addicted to gambling.”
Then, he was blacklisted by Xu Mingxing.
01.Failure to break through
“Let’s try one more time!”
On the afternoon of September 18th, Rong Fan and a dozen other people attempted to push past security guards and enter OKCoin company's building.
Ironically, Rong Fan was actually the high school classmate with Xu Mingxing, founder of OKCoin.
On September 5th, OKEx reported an unexplained system crash, which costed Rong 0.8 million RMB. Other victims also lost amounts ranging from several hundred-thousands RMB to hundred-millions RMB. (1 CNY=0.14USD)
The victims discovered that OKCoin’s headquarter was located on the fourth and fifth stories of a building in a science and technology park in Beijing. Out of rage, they flooded in from all over China, demanding justice.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t even enter the building, due to a ring of security guards hired by OKCoin.
Security guards listening to morning team-talk in front of the bilding
“The property managers who are in charge of the building have become irritated by OKCoin. They once told the security guards not to stay on the first floor. If they wanted to stop people from entering, they should do that upstairs." said one of the protesters.
After confronting them for a few days, Rong Fan and other protesters tried to dash through the gate. They planned for at least one person to break through.
However, security guards outnumbered protesters two-to-one and the protesters couldn’t make it through.
Rong Fan is tall yet skinny. Two security guards easily incapacitated him. One had him in a headlock, the other grabbed his legs. They carried him out of the building.
The protest failed again.
Rong traveled a long way to get to Beijing, expecting to find compensation for his loss, only to be thrown out of the building. One can only imagine what he must have felt.
“I don’t have any personal problem with him. I came here not for him. I just hope his company can give me a reasonable excuse and compensate me for my loss.” Rong Fan said.
02. Blacklisted by Xu Mingxing
Rong Fan tended to keep his relationship with Xu private. Few people knew he was Xu’s high school classmate, including other protesters.
Rong Fan was very reluctant to talk about his previous relationship with Xu. The person he knew has always been intense and uncompromising. He was afraid that if he told the public what Xu was like in the past, it would irritate Xu and he would never get his compensation.
He and Xu Mingxing both studied at Hongze Secondary School in Jiangsu Province. This is the best high school in Hongze county (now Hongze District). This school is near the Hongze Lake. It’s 15 kilometers’ away from Xu’s hometown: Shuangjian village in Huangji town.
After a few years hardworking in Hongze High School, this farmer's son was admitted into University of Science & Technology in Beijing. He later attended the Renmin University of China for graduate school. He changed his own life through hard work.
This should have been a wonderful inspirational story. Xu Mingxing had a deep appreciation of his secondary school. In 2016, He donated five hundred thousand RMB (71 thousand RMB) to his school as part of its “Dahong Educational Fund” endowment, which was the biggest amount this school had ever received.
The donation records published in Hongze School’s website
One of the teachers in charge of donation at Hongze School told us, Xu Mingxing had asked the school not to discuss or answer questions about him.
By the time he made this donation, OKCoin had been established for 3 years. Xu himself had already earned some fame in the Chinese Bitcoin industry.
As Xu Mingxing’s business sprung up, his old classmate Rong Fan started to learn about the Bitcoin world.
He also heard that Xu Mingxing had opened a Bitcoin exchange company.
In November 2017 came the final wave of a bull market in the Bitcoin world. That's when Rong Fan started to trade bitcoins on Huobi exchange.
However, this prosperity didn’t last long. Rong Fan suffered great losses as a result of pursuing the bear market.
This May, hiding it from his family, Rong Fan put all his digital assets of 16 bitcoins in OKCoin as a last-ditch effort.
Then on September 5th, OKex users experienced a systems crash which was so suspicious that people give it the name “the internet cable unplugging”. This accident totally destroyed Rong’s hope.
That afternoon at 5 o'clock, Rong Fan opened the OKEx app as usual, but found a blank page.
Rong Fan was panicked. On the page, there was nothing but an error warning. He refreshed the page many times to no avail. At the same time, his phone constantly received messages notifying him that his account had been wiped out.
It was one hour later when the OKEx application was finally fixed. But it was already too late. Rong had lost all his digital assets: 16 bitcoins which worth 0.8 million RMB at that time.
" We are all reasonable people. We took risks and we will accept the consequence." Rong Fan said, "But we can't accept malicious manipulation."
He questioned Xu Mingxing through Wechat. But he received criticisms instead of answers.
“You are just too addicted to gambling.” He refused to compensate.
Rong Fan wanted to defend himself. But Xu had already blacklisted him.
03. Join the ”group”
In fact, when Rong Fan’s account was wiped out, Xu Mingxing was also living a hard life. He was strongly condemned by the public.
On September 10th, Xu Mingxing was trapped in a police station in Shanghai. Many OKEx clients came to Shanghai, trying to meet and question him. That’s how Rong Fan met the other victims.
On September 16th, Rong Fan arrived in Beijing. He got together with other investors who also lost a lot because of “the internet cable unplugging”.
One of them is Wu Jun. She lost all her 2.8 million EOS coins, which worth 120 million RMB (17 million dollars).
2.8 million EOS coins is a large amount of money. If someone wanted to buy in, it should be bought separately for a few times. However, "all my EOS coins disappeared in no time. I can’t even find the counter party’s transaction data.” Wu Jun said.
She believed that OKEx had been manipulating the trade by making up nonexistent counter parties, aiming at big clients.
Another victim, Zhang, had also lost millions of RMB in OKEx this May during another system breakdown. He refused to tell the exact number of his loss: “It’s humiliating. I prefer not to say it.”
This June, he heard that when clients came to the headquarter to complain, they got 20 percent money back as compensation. So he came here too.
But OKEx denied to have compensated anyone and didn’t pay Zhang. Then he stayed and became one of the frequent protesters in front of the building.
As Zhang said, at first, OKCoin at least would send someone to meet them when clients came to protest. But since Xu Mingxing was trapped in a police station in Shanghai this September, OKCoin has stopped to meet them and did nothing to appease the affected clients.
Rong Fan and other people testified his words, "When we first came here, security guys still asked us to register our names. Now, nothing happens when we come.”
There is no more communication between investors and the platform. The confrontation, however, is becoming increasingly worse.
Zhang has witnessed a pregnant protester being pushed down by a guard.
Another client Li had a physical confrontation with one of OK’s staff. The staff fell down, and Li was taken to the police station.
“OK’s staff were ‘diving’.”Zhang said, "They couldn’t provide any medical documents of injury when asked by police. Li was released several hours later.”
Nevertheless, there was not always tension between guards and protesters. They needed break time.
When the confrontation stopped for a while, Zhang offered a cigarette to the chief guard. These two who were fighting each other hours ago started to chat as they puffed out the smoke.
“I still don’t get it. Why you folks all want to invest. ” The chief said, "I want to try it. I’ll invest 200 RMB for fun when I’m free.”
“200 is far from enough. It doesn’t work like that.” Zhang replied.
“Then I’ll invest 20 thousand. The next thing you know, I’m here to make trouble like you guys, right?” the guard said, "It’s a game for rich people, not the poor guys.”
The present clients couldn’t tell their difficulties. They laughed it off.
In fact, the inventors are now broke. Many of them own fewer assets than the chief security guard.
Due to the high cost of living in Beijing, many defenders gave up and left within only one month.
In front of OKCoin company, an investor stared blankly at the sudden rain
Rong Fan now lives with a few protesters in an apartment a few kilometers away from OKCoin’s headquarter. They share this three-room apartment to save money.
They often order fried rice at a nearby small restaurant where it serves a large portion of food at a low price so that they can also save some money.
After they came here, they started to collect and organize their records of investment and wipe-out. But unexpectedly, these records that were supposed to be saved in OKEx’s app started to disappear.
Zhang showed us his wipe-out records. The latest one was on September 20th, while the records of his wipe-out on September 5th was nowhere to be found. OKEx explained: "Because of storage limitation, we delete transaction data at regular intervals in order to improve our system.”
Zhang’s wipe-out records before September 20th disappeared
Now, the only evidence left was a series of screen-shots of wipe-out records. The lawyer they consulted told them these pictures were not notarized and had no legal effect. So the screenshot can only be used as clues instead of evidence.
The lawyer told them it would be very difficult to win a lawsuit against OKEx.
OKCoin has published a notification, saying, "According to the public information on the internet, OKEx is run by ACX Malta Technology Company Limited. It is registered in Malta as a dependant company. Xu Mingxing is not a member of the legal entity, the board or the shareholders.”
This means a total separation between OKCoin and OKEx on a legal basis. Chinese Investors will have a hard time suing the right entity within China
But one can clearly tell there must be some connection between the two companies since Xu Mingxing used to be the founder of them both. After OKCoin shut down its inboard business, its users could still use their accounts directly in OKEx without signing in.
Log-in page in OKEx, showing OKCoin accounts are workable for OKEx
The final plan the lawyer offered was to sue the main operating entity of OKCoin, Beijing Lekuda Internet Technology Company Limited, for the leakage of their information to OKEx company.
Protesters are leaving. Evidence of wipe-out is disappearing. OKEx became out of reach. Xu Mingxing himself is also out of public view.
In fact, Xu Mingxing seldom showed up at the headquarter in Beijing after the accident in early September.
Yet some of the protesters are still not giving up their hope. They still go to the headquarter and protest loudly under the building, asking Xu Mingxing to compensate.
Their favorite chatting topic is Xu’s gossip.
Zhang was there when Xu Mingxing was trapped in the police office. It was said that Xu was very hungry, and the investors there raised 10 yuan (1.4 dollars) and bought him some Baozi, a cheap traditional Chinese food. Xu denied this story that night.
“Screw him. He ate the food we bought and didn’t get the ball to admit it.” Zhang told the other protesters there.
“Let me tell you another story. When we went to the police station, we stared at every exit in order to catch and meet him. Can you guess how he got away?”
“We would look inside of every car coming out of the station through the window. But we didn’t see him. Later, we realized, there was only one way he could get away without us noticing: he was hidden in the trunk!”
Everyone else present burst out laughing, while Rong Fan himself was in silence.
On October 10th, Xu Mingxing suddenly showed up at OKCoin. The protesters heard the news and all came to the company. Xu was again surrounded by them. The pictures spread over every internet community.
“Living an awkward life like that, maybe money can’t simply bring happiness to him.” An investor said at their WeChat group.
Yet Rong Fan was in no mood caring about whether his old friend is happy or not. The day before Xu Mingxing showed up at his company, OKEx widely froze clients’ accounts again for no reason.
Rong’s account was one of them.
“I Still have over 2 million RMB’s (0.29 million dollars) debt to pay off.” Rong Fan said, "The last 30 dollars in my account are my only assets now.”
(Alias are used required by interviewees)