Thousands of people turned out in protest outside municipal government offices in the central Chinese city of Wuhan over major cuts to their medical benefits, according to local residents and video footage posted on social media, media reports said.
Video clips uploaded to social media showed a large crowd of older people in raincoats and holding umbrellas gathered in rainy weather in a public space outside the gates of the city government compound, with police in high-visibility jackets linking arms to prevent them from approaching the gates, RFA reported.
A resident of Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, surnamed Zhang said both uniformed and plainclothes police were out in large numbers at the protest, with several official buses parked at the scene, RFA reported.
“There were a lot of police officers there protecting [the municipal government], but this is a matter of public feeling,” he said.
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 three years of President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy, which ended in December last year, RFA reported.
“This country is in trouble, and they haven’t raised medical payments — how can they reduce them? How are people supposed to manage,” Zhang asked.
He said the authorities had known the protest was coming and had held a “stability maintenance” meeting at city hall to deal with the issue.
“Retirees are 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),” a subtitle on one of the videos said, RFA reported.
“If they don’t get an answer from the government, they will hold an even bigger rally,” the text said.