Hundreds of elderly retirees in the Chinese city of Wuhan staged a protest on Wednesday (February 15…
Hundreds of elderly retirees in the Chinese city of Wuhan staged a protest on Wednesday (February 15) to show their discontent with a local government reform to the public health insurance system that had been implemented earlier in the month. Photos and videos circulating on social media show a large crowd of protesters in raincoats and umbrellas gathering in front of the city center park, with police officers linking arms to prevent them from approaching the gates.
The reform, which has reduced medical benefits for retired workers and has not been publicly responded to by the government, has caused a wave of public anger. Wuhan health authorities later issued a statement claiming that the reform would “benefit those in sickness and the elderly population” in the long term, although it would reduce medical benefits in the short term.
The protest was the second one in a week in Wuhan, which is home to over 11 million people. China's elderly, who make up a fifth of the country's population, have been particularly impacted by the reform, with the number of those 60 and above expanding to 280 million last year. This demographic crisis has significant implications for the slowing economy and elderly care.
Local residents have reported that most of the protesters were retired workers at the Wuhan Iron and Steel plant, with some from other state-owned enterprises, as well as disgruntled residents whose homes had been forcibly demolished. The demonstration was accompanied by the singing of the protest anthem “The Internationale”.
It is not known if there were any arrests, as police and government officials have yet to comment on the situation publicly. However, a resident of Wuhan surnamed Zhang reported a heavy police presence at the scene, and in some footage, officers can be seen attempting to restrain the crowd. Zhang also said that retirees were demanding an explanation from the government as to why their medical benefits have been cut from 260 yuan ($38) a month to less than 100 yuan ($15).
The protest came after warnings from the central government in Beijing that it won’t be bailing out cash-strapped local governments, whose coffers have been drained by President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy. According to Zhang, people are concerned that they won’t have enough money to manage if medical payments aren’t raised.
0. “WATCH | Chinese retirees protest in Wuhan over reforms to public health insurance system” WION, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.wionews.com/world/watch-chinese-retirees-protest-in-wuhan-over-reforms-to-public-health-insurance-system-562286
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. “Elderly protest health insurance cuts in China's Wuhan” CNN, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/15/economy/wuhan-protests-elderly-health-insurance-china-intl-hnk/index.html
3. “Elderly protest health insurance cuts in China's Wuhan” WICZ, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.wicz.com/story/48386819/elderly-protest-health-insurance-cuts-in-chinas-wuhan
4. “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