Chinese premier promises changes amid protest calls
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao promised economic policy changes designed to benefit ordinary people Sunday amid calls for anti-government protests across the nation, dpa reported.
Wen answered questions online via two government websites, promising to ensure fairer income distribution, rein in inflation, tackle corruption and address social problems.
He said China's growing gap between rich and poor had affected "social justice" and stability.
The government planned to discuss raising the income tax threshold to benefit people on low incomes next week, Wen said.
He said the government would invest more in a national medical insurance scheme and would try to curb soaring housing prices.
"We have to contain the excessive price growth and keep housing prices at a reasonable level," Wen said.
"We will use economic, legal and administrative methods if necessary to restrict (property) speculation," he said.
Wen made a similar pledge on housing prices in another online question-and-answer session one year earlier, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
But prices have continued to rise despite the government raising interest rates, curbing lending and imposing restrictions on property buyers.
Wen said the government would target annual economic growth of about 7 per cent over the next five years, down from 10.3 per cent last year.
Tackling corruption among senior officials would be another "primary task" for the government in its five-year plan, he said
The government wanted to avoid "unsustainable growth featuring industrial overcapacity and intensive resource consumption", Wen said.
It aimed to cut energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product by at least 16 per cent by 2015, after cutting consumption by 19 per cent per unit between 2005 and 2010, he said.
The government said Wen's online session was his third one before an annual session of the National People's Congress, scheduled to open on Saturday.
His remarks were widely reported by state media hours before scheduled anti-government protests in dozens of cities.
An open letter from the "China Jasmine Rallies organizers" published online Wednesday by the US-based Chinese pro-democracy website Boxun.com called for weekly non-confrontational protests from Sunday, following the first small-scale events last Sunday.