On the eve of the 35th anniversary of China’s brief border war with Vietnam, crowds of veterans gathered in Beijing to appeal to the regime for benefits and support promised them decades ago.
By mid morning on Monday, the area near Communist Party offices was filled with petitioners in their military uniforms, displaying banners with their aspirations, demands, and grievances. Many of the veterans voiced resentment at the regime for not fulfilling enlistment promises, leaving some veterans in dire straits.
The petitioners were rounded up and taken to Jiujingzhuang, a holding center for petitioners in Beijing, where representatives negotiated with officials over improvements to the pensions and living conditions.
“There are five hundred people who came to petition the Central Military Commission and the Office of the General Political Department,” a Vietnam War veteran from Shandong told Epoch Times. He told reporters that usually there are four departments for handling petitioners, but officials added a department specifically to talk to the veterans on this occasion. Later in the day told reporters that the representatives were still negotiating but there were no results yet.
Some angry veterans threatened to gather and march in Tiananmen Square if there were no satisfactory negotiations started by 2:30 in the afternoon.
In Pingxiang, Guangxi Province, a crowd of about 3,000 veterans gathered the previous week under a heavy police presence for a memorial service and to protest lack of promised government support.
“We held up banners for just a few minutes, but then they were snatched away from us by police, who told us to pack them away again, quickly,” veteran and activist Sun Enwei told Radio Free Asia (RFA). “But our activity met with definite obstruction.”
He said the veterans were allowed to proceed to the cemetery in small groups only and could stay only briefly.
Because many veterans live in poverty in China, with monthly living allowances insufficient to cover their medical bills, gatherings of angry veterans are a common phenomenon. Many soldiers left or were discharged from the military before they reached retirement age and thus collect no military pension, and many received no job training, leaving them with few prospects now that they are aging and infirm.