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Laid-off disabled workers expect more care


21:19, April 03, 2013

NANCHANG, April 3 (Xinhua) -- Zhu Xiuzhen is struggling to listen to the TV in her tiny, ramshackle house in east China.

The 60-year-old Zhu, who was born blind, has been living in a shantytown with her husband since a local "welfare factory" she had worked at for more than 30 years went bankrupt in 1996 in Pingxiang, a city in east China's Jiangxi Province.

Welfare factories are those that employ handicapped workers and that enjoy preferential treatment regarding taxes and supplies of raw materials.

A well-preserved color portrait of the late Chairman Mao Zedong is inlaid in a photo frame and hangs on the wall of her house.

"I have always believed that the portrait can bring good luck to my family," said Zhu.

Zhu's husband Zhong Nianzao, who is hard of hearing, worked at the same factory as a temporary worker for more than ten years.

"We fed the family with a monthly settlement allowance of 60 yuan (about 9.67 U.S. dollars) until reaching retirement age in 2003," said Zhong.

The couple then made a living by selling homebrewed wine and green beans at a local market, earning an average monthly income of 200 yuan for several years. But now, running their own small business is impossible due to their physical condition.

Welfare factories previously played an irreplaceable role in helping disabled people find employment. Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs show that there were 57,000 welfare factories employing 840,000 handicapped workers in 1993.

However, the factories have failed to survive, as their employees' disabilities prevent them from making technologically advanced products. The factories have shut down one after another.

Zhu, together with 70 of her handicapped colleagues, lives in Pingxiang's Jiangwan Community, a shantytown sandwiched by bustling streets. Their situation is not unlike that of laid-off workers from the Landian Factory, which was once one of the largest welfare factories in Beijing.

The former employees of the Landian Factory have been fighting with local property developers for nine years over land ownership issues. More than 30 households have refused to leave their community, despite the developers' efforts to get them out.

Xie Shiping, vice mayor of Pingxiang, said Zhu's factory failed to transform itself due to a lack of financial support.

He added that the local government is considering revamping the abandoned factory in accordance with the city's ongoing shantytown renovation project.

Community authorities have encouraged social donations to help them renovate their houses, said Wen Xiaoyan, head of the community.

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