Large crowds gathered on January 11 outside a local Human Resources and Social Security office in Cantonprotesting a sudden cut in payments to their personal medical insurance accounts, according to video of the protest posted online.
It is the latest in a series of mass rallies in the city, the commercial center of southern China and the seat of Guangdong province. Some attendees told the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times that they have been protesting since payment cuts began in December.
“The government [of Guangzhou] reduced our personal medical insurance by two-thirds since last December, from 484 yuan ($71.35) per month to 160 yuan ($23.59) per month,” Guangzhou resident Mr. Lin told Epoch Times.
He only gave his last name out of fear of reprisals from the Chinese regime.
Personal medical insurance is a very important financial resource for retirees, who use it to pay for outpatient appointment fees and certain medical treatments, tests, scans and medications they purchase from hospitals or pharmacies, among other medical expenses.
Lin said pensioners also protested in front of provincial and municipal government buildings in December.
“We went to the Guangdong Provincial Letters and Visits Bureau and the Guangzhou Municipal Health Care Security Bureau last month, but the officials didn’t come to meet us,” Lin complained about the treatment he received. to pensioners by the authorities.
Mr. Liu (pseudonym), a retired employee of the Guangzhou Alloy Steel Plant, told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that more than 1,000 retirees took part in a protest outside the Guangzhou Health Care Security Bureau on January 11.
“We now go twice a week to the letter and visit offices, demanding that the government return our money,” Liu said.
The Chinese Communist regime uses the Letters and Visits Offices to deal with Chinese petitioners who file complaints against the regime’s government authorities. Chinese human rights lawyer Wu Shaoping calls these offices “a systematic trap” for petitioners, as it is “just a tactic to drain both people’s time and money”.
As online videos of the Jan. 11 protest show, police vehicles lined the streets and kept a close watch on protesters. Other police officers were seen sitting in buses parked nearby. The police barricaded the protest site with fencing. Protesters were negotiating with a man outside the government building in one of the clips online. In one video, a pensioner was reportedly beaten by police.
The Epoch Times was unable to verify the authenticity of the videos.
Mr. Lin downloaded messages from the protests to Chinese social media platforms, which were quickly taken down by the regime’s internet censors, according to Lin.
Illegal payment deductions: Retired
Retirees claim that payments to their personal medical insurance accounts are their private property, as they are paid from their own contributions and those made by their employers before retirement.
Lin said he had contributed to his medical insurance fund for more than 20 years.
“The money in our personal medical insurance accounts is not a government appropriation; it is our own contribution made from our monthly income,” Lin said, “The government has no right to withdraw our money from our personal account, which is illegal.
According to Lin, Guangzhou residents and their employers had to pay 2% and 8% of an employee’s basic monthly salary, respectively, to the city’s medical insurance pool. Retirees were receiving monthly payments of 484 yuan into their personal medical insurance accounts before local authorities changed their policies to reduce payments.
However, the provincial government has republished a report by a local state-run media outlet that explained the changes in medical insurance policies. The report mentions that retirees receive 169 yuan (about $35) in their personal medical accounts per month, according to the new policies. He also wrote that the municipal government would “barter” funds from personal medical insurance to pooled social medical insurance.
Liu said he was forced to pay more than 100,000 yuan ($14,700) in social security and medical insurance before he could retire with a pension and medical insurance. “These are private insurance that we bought with our own money,” Liu said.
Mr. Li (pseudonym), a retiree from Guangzhou, criticized local governments for being unreasonable and violating Chinese law.
“Governments have said that our money [personal medical insurance] is waste because it is only deposited in the bank. They said they didn’t need to pay us that much because we hadn’t used our deposits, which meant we didn’t need that much,” Li said angrily.
“Do they also want to take people’s personal savings to the bank?” Can they say they won’t pay you a salary because you have deposits in the bank? »
Rise in deficits
Mr. Lin believes that the payments have been reduced because local governments are suffering from financial shortfalls due to the past three years of zero COVID policies.
“Many businesses have gone bankrupt over the past three years due to the closures. How can the government have money when companies are collapsing? Lin said.
In addition to economic setbacks, governments have spent large sums on COVID prevention and control measures. Guangdong Province reportedly spent a total of 146.8 billion yuan ($21.65 billion) to maintain its epidemic control measures, such as mass PCR testing and forced vaccination, over the past three years.
“Having said that, they can’t just take money from us vulnerable people,” Lin said, adding that retirees rely on insurance payments to pay for their day-to-day medical bills.
“In case of serious illness, who will pay for us? Even with 484 yuan given to us in the past, we could only save 58,080 yuan ($12,061) in ten years if we didn’t spend a penny during that time,” Lin said. “Now, with 160 yuan, we can’t even afford N95 masks.
Multiple Epoch Times calls to the administrative offices of the Municipal Health Care Security Bureau and the Human Resources and Social Security Bureau on January 24 went unanswered.
But a man who responded to a call from the Human Resources and Social Security Bureau hotline, who declined to be named, confirmed that 320 yuan had been cut from monthly insurance payments to local retirees and that the money belonged to personal accounts. However, he said the action was not illegal.
“It’s not a deduction; it only reduces the monthly payment of personal accounts, which has been approved by government documents,” he said.
When asked if it was legal to take out personal accounts without obtaining approval from the owners, the man replied: “If retirees have any complaints, I can write them down and report them to the appropriate authorities. [government] departments to support.
Zhao Fenghua and Hong Ning contributed to this report.