Rumors that the Bank of East Asia was in trouble spread like wildfire through Hong Kong yesterday, causing a panicked mob to descend on the bank as thousands withdrew their life savings, the Financial Times reports. Police moved in to keep order as crowds demanded their money. BEA's tycoon chairman blamed "malicious rumors" for the panic and vowed to buy shares in the bank himself.
Some customers waited in line overnight after the bank closed for the day and the withdrawals continue today. Bank and government officials moved swiftly to protect the bank, but there are fears the rumors of bank failure could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I heard that BEA was in trouble this morning but wasn't so worried until I saw the queue," said a woman waiting to withdraw her savings.