THE interests of farmers and workers will not be ignored as China marches towards a free market economy, senior leaders say. Politburo Standing Committee member Hu Jintao and Secretariat member Wen Jiabao tried yesterday to reassure both groups - traditionally their strongest backers - the Communist Party has not lost its proletarian roots. During a 90-minute address to a national trade union conference, Mr Hu said China must 'firmly and wholeheartedly rely on the working class'. Unions, he said, should be seeking solutions for the problems which would inevitably appear as the planned economy gave way to the socialist market economy. Speaking at a separate conference, Labour Minister Li Boyong said the Government would take steps in the coming five years to keep unemployment in urban areas to below five per cent and maintain a 4.5 per cent increase in workers' real income. He said the Government hoped to issue 15 new labour laws in that period. Meanwhile, Mr Wen wrote in Seeking Truth magazine the stability of the country hinged on how the party handled farmers.