Protests emerge in China against cut-down on health benefits for elderly

The aged population in China have appeared on the streets to protest against the country's decision to cut down health benefits for the group. It was the second time when the population of elders gathered on the streets to protest, within just a week. Wuhan has become the center of these protests, along with a north-eastern city, Dalian. It is a crucial moment for Chinese president Xi Jinping as within the next few weeks, he is to face the annual National People's Congress. The National People's Congress carries the highest significance in Chinese politics as it decides the next leadership. 

Chinese authorities ordered a cut-down on the health benefits received by retirees from the government. These benefits are crucial for the aged population in the country as it saves them from medical expenses after their retirement. Elderly people are significantly more susceptible to chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and many others. Thus they require frequent hospital visits and constant medical care to have a normal life. But as their health benefits are getting cut down, a massive portion of their retirement funds will be spent on hospital and pharmacy bills. Because of this, the elderly first gathered in Wuhan on February 8 to protest against these cuts in health benefits. Videos of these protests surfaced over the internet which showed elderly people gathered on the streets, demanding this decision be reversed. 

Regulations regarding healthcare are decided by the corresponding province. Meaning that each province has its regulation regarding public healthcare. These cut-downs on health benefits as of now have only been applied in the Hubei province, which includes Wuhan. But the protests have managed to spread nationwide, questioning the authorities of CN President Xi Jinping. Nationwide protests are extremely rare in the country, because of the serious repercussions faced by past protesters in the country. But last November, they experienced nationwide protests against China’s Zero-COVID policy. Protesters marched across streets asking XI Jinping to step down from his position. Seeing the vast spread of protests, CCP had to revert to the Zero-COVID policy, thus offering the victory to the protesters. This indeed has encouraged other groups of the population to be more vocal regarding their demands. 

This is the reason that a second protest by the elderly has emerged in Wuhan. And their demands are fairly reasonable. China just recovered from a serious COVID-19 outbreak which killed thousands of people across the country. Due to the severe rise in COVID-19 cases, China’s healthcare system came under serious jeopardy, Elderly people were affected the most during this outbreak because of their compromised immunity and higher disease susceptibility. Along with this, inflation has also taken a crucial toll on the purchasing power of the Chinese population. It has made things extremely difficult for retirees who have to manage their retirement funds effectively these days when the cost of living has skyrocketed. China has already spent a tremendous amount of money on COVID-19 testing and treatment, which, as stated by global researchers, has a low mortality rate. Chinese authorities are thus getting ridiculed over the interest in their decision to cut down health benefits for elderly people, a population group that needs it the most.