China: rare demonstration of pensioners in Wuhan

China: rare demonstration of withdrawals in Wuhan


Several hundred retirees in China took to the streets of Wuhan on Wednesday to protest against a health insurance reform, according to testimonies collected by AFP and images verified on social networks.< /strong> 

Protests in China are infrequent, in a country where maintaining social stability is a dogma and where power generally nips any dissent in the bud.

Several reasons for exasperation, in particular the health restrictions against COVID-19, had however pushed some Chinese people into the streets in recent months despite the risk of arrest and prosecution.

On Wednesday a crowd of demonstrators gathered outside the entrance to Zhongshan Park, a popular place to walk in Wuhan with 11 million inhabitants, according to four witnesses interviewed by AFP.

A video broadcast on social networks show security agents in front of the entrance to the park setting up a human chain to prevent demonstrators from entering.

AFP was not immediately able to authenticate these images.

Under a health insurance reform in China, the amount of health allowance paid monthly to retirees by local authorities has been reduced since February 1.

This decision had already led to last week at a rally of retirees in front of Wuhan City Hall.

The protesters were then received by the authorities, according to images posted online by participants.

The reform of health insurance in China is a vast project, the implementation of which has been taking place gradually since 2021.

“If Beijing fails to implement it correctly, it risks aggravating social tensions and anger” against the authorities, warn in a note analysts from the firm SinoInsider specializing in Chinese politics and economy.

The reform comes at a time when the finances of local governments are being tested after three years of an onerous zero COVID policy.

This strategy, lifted in early December, was based in particular on tests of generalized and free screening.

This social movement reflects “the financial difficulties experienced by local authorities”, notes SinoInsider.

Because generally “local authorities prefer to compromise” with the protesters to prevent a movement from gaining momentum, argues the firm.

In July 2022, customers of Chinese banks, whose withdrawals had been brutally frozen, were thus able to recover part of their their money after a ma tense protest in central China.