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Caixin

Once a China coal boomtown, Hegang now can't afford to hire

Many local governments in debt due to aging population, pandemic, economic change

Smoke billows from a cooling tower of a thermal power plant near residential buildings in the northeastern Chinese coal city of Hegang in 2020.    © Reuters

A city in China's rust-belt northeast canceled a government recruitment plan as it struggles to fill a hole in its coffers amid mounting debts and falling revenues from its once-dominant coal mining industry and slumping property sales, revealing yet another tip of the iceberg of debt plaguing regions across the country.

Hegang, a city in Heilongjiang Province that sits on the border with Russia, last Thursday announced it had canceled a plan for hiring lower-level government workers because a fiscal restructuring plan has brought "significant changes to the city's financial condition," according to a statement posted on its website.

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