WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 - Hundreds of retired Chinese oil workers staged a protest this week in the northern province of Heilongjiang demanding living stipends along the lines of those given to retired party cadres, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. Up to 1,000 retired workers in their 70s and 80s rallied Monday at the Jian-an Group Inc.'s Daqing oilfield to demand government pensions, according to witnesses who asked not to be named. The Daqing oilfield, China's largest, reportedly accounts for half of China's domestic oil production. In a speech, the 72-year-old former chairman of the workers' union said, "All retired workers are owed pension payments. Some didn't even have enough money to have a decent spring festival this past year ... so they sold blood." He then described a retired worker who - ill but unable to afford medical care and unwilling to burden his family - killed himself with a butcher knife. The Daqing oilfield protesters demanded government stipends for retired workers similar to those guaranteed to cadres after they retire. They also want company pensions, which they were promised, to be paid. Some of the Daqing retirees say their pension payments are more than a year in arrears. During China's decades as a centrally planned economy, workers received pension payments from their individual work units. Beijing has revamped the system in recent years, however, so workers contribute toward a national pension scheme, as they do in many Western countries. But this system leaves workers who retired before the new system came into existence quite vulnerable, and China's pension deficit is huge. RFA's report is available in full at Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting news and information to those countries in Asia where full, accurate, and timely news reports are unavailable. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA aims to deliver such news reports - along with opinions and commentaries - and to provide a forum for a variety of voices and opinions. RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan, and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest journalistic standards and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.

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