Retirees Protest in China over Slashed Health Benefits

Chinese Seniors Protest
Image: Shaun Flynn

Large groups of Chinese seniors have taken to the street to protest against cuts to their healthcare benefits.

They got together for the second time on Wednesday in the cities of Wuhan and Dalian.

The National People’s Congress, which happens once a year and chooses a new group of leaders, is coming up in a few weeks. President Xi Jinping’s government is under pressure because of the second round of protests in as many days.

Protests broke out for the first time in Wuhan on February 8. This was after the government said it would cut the amount retirees can get back from the government for bills.

The videos shared on social media show that most of the protesters are older people who have retired. They say that this is happening when prices for health care are going through the roof.

Though decisions about health insurance are made at the provincial level, protests are happening in many parts of the country. This seems to be a sign that people in China believe in the power of protesting again.

People in China were tired of the mass testing and sudden, wide-scale lockdowns that were hurting the economy. Last year, thousands of young Chinese took part in protests that forced the government to reverse its strict zero-Covid measures. People in China were also getting tired of all the tests that were going on.

But this sudden change in policy put a lot of stress on China’s healthcare system. It is already struggling to keep up with the fast spread of the coronavirus across the country. No one knows how many people died because of it.

Changes to health benefits for retirees are being made as China is starting to recover from a bad Covid wave.

Some people on social media have spoken out against the plan. Many are saying that government officials are trying to get back the huge amounts of money that were spent on mandatory COVID testing and other anti-pandemic measures.

Radio Free Asia says that a big part of the first protest group in Wuhan was made up of people who used to work in the iron and steel industry but had since retired.

In a country where it is hard to organize any kind of protest against the government and doing so can lead to harsh punishments like jail time, the use of pre-existing links in social networks may help explain how these gatherings have been organized. Any kind of protest can lead to harsh punishments in China

In video recordings that were, older protesters could be heard singing the Internationale, which is the communist hymn. This song has been played in the past to show that the people protesting are not against the government. It also indicated they are not against the Communist Party. They just want their problems to be fixed.

A shopkeeper who was at the demonstration in Wuhan said that police on both sides of a nearby road had blocked access to the area so that more people couldn’t join the hundreds of older people who were already chanting slogans.

The three-year pandemic crisis and the rough transition from zero-Covid have made lots of people angry about China’s health policy.

Mr. Xi had previously given his personal approval to the country’s Covid improvement measures, and the Party has had a hard time explaining why they had to be changed so quickly.

The Chinese government had also publicly criticized other countries for opening up too early. Saying that those countries sacrificed their people for no reason.

After that, it changed its mind and got rid of its own restrictions even faster than other countries had. China has been using lockdowns and harsher restrictions more than anywhere in the world.

Many people around here now think that because of this, people’s means of survival were taken from them without good reason.

“Hot topics” section of the social media site Weibo is where the Chinese version of the hashtag #healthinsurance came from. Even though the section got millions of clicks, it was taken down.

The hashtag for the most recent protests in Wuhan, which took place in Zhongshan Park, and the pictures that were said to be from the protest were both deleted.

Even though China’s extensive censorship system has been put into action, there is still a lot of support for the protesting retirees on social media.

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