Elderly Chinese Protest Cuts to Medical Benefits

Hundreds of elderly people in cities across China have taken to the streets in recent weeks in protest of the government’s decision to cut their medical benefits.[0] Videos of the protests have circulated on social media, showing crowds of people in raincoats and holding umbrellas gathering outside government buildings in the cities of Wuhan and Dalian.[1]

The protests are rooted in the reduction of social benefits for the city’s elderly, who have seen their monthly allowance for medical expenses cut from 260 yuan ($38) a month to less than 100 yuan ($15).[2] Protestors were heard saying that the “cuts come at a time when healthcare costs are soaring.”[3]

At the protests, people could be seen jostling with officers in one video, while another showed officers leading people onto buses.[4] It was reported that several individuals had been apprehended by law enforcement officers.[5] Some of the footage has been censored, with searches for “Zhongshan Park” and “Wuhan medical insurance reform” on Weibo showing no results.[6]

Most of the protesters were retired workers at the Wuhan Iron and Steel plant, but there were also people from other state-owned enterprises and disgruntled residents whose homes had been forcibly demolished.[7] They were calling for their medical benefits to be restored to their original level of 260 yuan ($38) a month.[7]

The protests come at a time when China is still recovering from the strict Covid-19 measures that were imposed late last year. The changes to health benefits for retirees, which officials have described as reforms, come just as China emerges from the brutal Covid wave.[3] The plan has been sold as a means of trading off reimbursement levels to increase the scope of coverage to include more areas, but many believe the government is trying to recoup the costs of compulsory Covid testing and other pandemic measures.

Copyright 2023 NPR.[8] No rights are waived.[8] For more information, please check out our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org.[8]

0. “Older Chinese Protest Health Care Reform That Reduces Benefits” Voice of America – VOA News, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/older-chinese-protest-health-care-reform-that-reduces-benefits/6965399.html

1. “Thousands hit streets in China's Wuhan against cuts in medical benefits” ummid.com, 9 Feb. 2023, https://ummid.com/news/2023/february/09.02.2023/thousands-hit-streets-in-chinas-wuhan-against-cuts-in-medical-benefits.html

2. “Social media shows retirees protesting social cuts in Wuhan, China” La Prensa Latina, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.laprensalatina.com/social-media-shows-retirees-protesting-social-cuts-in-wuhan-china

3. “Retirees in China protest over slashed health benefits” Punjab News Express, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.punjabnewsexpress.com/news/news/retirees-in-china-protest-over-slashed-health-benefits–199289

4. “Hundreds of retirees in China take to the streets to protest cuts to medical benefits” AOL, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.aol.com/news/hundreds-retirees-china-streets-protest-124626650.html

5. “Elderly Chinese people protest in Wuhan against medical benefits cuts” The Guardian, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/feb/09/elderly-chinese-people-protest-wuhan-medical-benefits-cuts-covid

6. “Protests in Wuhan over health insurance underscore risks for China govt” The Straits Times, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/protests-in-wuhan-over-health-insurance-underscore-risks-for-china-govt

7. “In Wuhan, thousands of retirees protest slashed medical benefits” Radio Free Asia, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/wuhan-protests-02082023125905.html

8. “Retirees in China hold rare protests against health insurance reforms” NPR, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/transcripts/1157407890