2000 Retirees Protest Mistreatment in Shenzen

December 1, 2005 12:00 am Last Updated: December 1, 2005 12:00 am

Ten years of frustration exploded on the morning of November 24, as nearly 2,000 retired cadres from Shenzhen City in China's Guangdong Province took to the streets to show their dissatisfaction with the government's retirement system, saying that it favors some while discriminates against others.

According to a report by the Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper, this was the largest demonstration by retired cadre in Shenzhen's history.

Demonstrators holding banners gathered in front of Shenzhen's municipal government office, blocking traffic for almost five straight hours. The demonstration surprised Vice Mayor Liang Daoxing, but despite his pleas, the cadres would not leave. The government deployed several hundred police officers to the site.

About 9 a.m., roughly 2000 elderly men from many work units in Shenzhen braved freezing temperatures to walk from the Senior Cadre Activity Center to the municipal government office located at Shennan Road to protest the unfair treatment they had received. Under the current retirement system, government workers receive retirement benefits three times larger than the pensions received by cadres in ordinary work units.

When the marchers reached the government building, they moved into the street, creating a human wall which completely blocked all eight lanes of traffic on Shennan Road. The blockade caused a monstrous traffic jam which almost completely paralyzed local traffic. The cadres sang “March of the Brave Volunteers” and the “Internationale” (communist workers' anthems.) Meanwhile, several hundred other cadres walked to the Municipal Labor Bureau and asked to talk with a government officer in charge.

The surprised vice-mayor Liang was met with ridicule from the cadres when he tried to persuade them to leave the site. They said that their ten-year effort to call the government's attention to the unfair pension system had been fruitless. If Liang could have offered any kind of a solution, there the situation would have never occurred.

The elderly cadres came prepared for a lengthy battle. When they were tired, they rested by the side of the road. When they were hungry, they gnawed on bread. But at 3 p.m., after almost five hours of blocking the traffic, the cadres dispersed peacefully.

According to Ming Pao , most of the protesters were between 60 and 70 years old and had made contributions to the Shenzhen Special Economy Zone. Some were state heroes who had been involved in developing atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and artificial satellites.

It is reported that before 1995, Shenzhen's workers and official staff were treated almost the same. After China's retirement system reforms in 1995, the divide between workers and official staff became bigger and bigger.