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Retirees Protest in Beijing

Dozens of angry retired workers staged a protest in China Wednesday. The peaceful demonstration in the capital, Beijing, is just the latest in a rash of worker complaints.

At least 100 retired automobile factory workers briefly blocked traffic in Beijing, trying to draw attention to their demand for long overdue pension payments. The retirees stood outside the gate of the Beijing Automobile Works, but a few sat on the road.

A number of the elderly people complained that their pensions were months or even years late. They said thousands of current workers of the company might face layoffs in the future.

The rare demonstration in Beijing brought no arrests, even though dozens of police watched closely. The protesters dispersed peacefully after few hours.

Wednesday's action follows weeks of much larger demonstrations in China's heavily industrialized but economically troubled northeast. Thousands of laid-off workers in the cities of Daqing and Liaoyang besieged government buildings and rusting industrial plants to protest their living conditions and government corruption.

Hong Kong-based labor activist Han Dong Fang says he expects the number of demonstrations to grow and perhaps spread across China.

"There are more and more [protests] today because more and more workers' lives are getting more and more difficult after these years," he said.

China is undergoing a wrenching transition from a state-planned economy to a market-oriented one. Many of the state-owned factories that once offered lifetime employment are losing money and cannot keep that promise.