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China. Protests of pensioners against cuts in medical benefits

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Crowds of pensioners took to the streets of Chinese cities including Wuhan on Wednesday to protest against cuts in medical benefits, the BBC reported. This is the second such protest in a week.

The first protest by Chinese pensioners took place on February 8 in the city of Wuhan after the provincial government said it was reducing the level of medical expenses that elderly people can claim from the government. Demonstrators say the decision came at a time of skyrocketing healthcare costs.

The BBC points out that while health insurance issues are decided at the provincial level, the protests, which are mostly attended by elderly people, have spread to different parts of the country. This, according to BBC correspondent Stephen McDonell, proves that the Chinese have “believed again in the power of demonstrations”.

Pensioners protest in WuhanREUTERS

Thousands of young Chinese took part in protests late last year that eventually forced the government to move away from its strict zero covid policy. “People were tired of massive testing and sudden, harsh lockdowns that were devastating the economy,” writes a British journalist.

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However, the sudden change in policy has put a huge strain on China’s health system, as after the restrictions were lifted coronavirus spread rapidly throughout China. The number of deaths caused by COVID-19 has also increased in the country. According to BBC reports, most of the victims were elderly.

Changes in the settlement of health benefits for pensioners are therefore taking place in a difficult time for the Chinese, when the nation is facing the next wave of the pandemic. The authorities explain the cost cuts with the desire to protect more citizens.

Protesters sing the Internationale

Videos of the protests have surfaced on social media, showing crowds of pensioners singing The Internationale. In the past, the song was a signal that demonstrators were not against the government or the Communist Party, but only wanted their demands met by the authorities.

The station quoted a shop owner in Wuhan as saying police were blocking access to the demonstration area to prevent more people from joining the gathering.

The protests are putting pressure on President Xi Jinping’s administration in the weeks ahead of the annual convention of the Chinese parliament to appoint a new leadership.

Main photo source: REUTERS

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