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Homeless people are seen on a cold winter night near Beijing South Railway Station in Beijing, China, January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

(reuters_tickers)

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Some 12.4 million people in China were brought above the poverty line in 2016, in part due to more than 230 billion yuan ($33.5 billion) earmarked to help fight poverty, the state news agency Xinhua said late on Tuesday, quoting official statistics.

China has said it aims to reduce by at least 10 million annually the number of people living in poverty - which it defines as those with less than 2,300 yuan in annual income - and eradicate poverty by 2020.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has labelled the fight against poverty "the most important task" of the ruling Communist Party and the nation.

Financial institutions in China issued 818.1 billion yuan of loans to aid the anti-poverty drive, and outstanding loans now totalled 2.49 trillion yuan, Xinhua said. About 8.01 million households had received access to micro-credit, worth a total of 283.3 billion yuan, it said.

Su Guoxia, with the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said more financial resources would be added this year, according to Xinhua.

The China Daily newspaper said on Wednesday there were still 43.35 million people living on annual incomes below 2,300 yuan a year. ($1 = 6.8665 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Michael Perry)

Reuters