Some of the group wore T-shirts that said “Harbin Railway Bureau.” The people stood on a street near Beijing’s west railway station, and are believed to be Harbin parents of unemployed former military forces who were petitioning for their children’s sake.
The victims were later carried away by police and ambulances to hospitals. None died, and only three were seriously injured. Police are detaining 18 people for five days as punishment.
The children of those who attempted suicide had served in the Chinese communist military for two years and were promised jobs at the Harbin Railway Bureau but were later refused.
A former Harbin Railway Bureau worker, Zhu Chunsheng, told Radio Free Asia that the bureau had rejected over 200 people from the military and threatened that their parents would lose their jobs at the bureau if the people continued to ask.
Harbin city in Heilongjiang Province is in northeast China, a region that has been affected by chronic unemployment following a restructuring of state-owned industries initiated in the late 1990s.
In the past ten years in China, there have been nearly 60,000 former military forces returning to society and looking for jobs. Due to their age, lack of work experience, and low level of education, it’s difficult for these former soldiers to compete with college graduates for positions, especially given China’s stuttering economy.
Military people are often allocated jobs in regime departments, as is the case with the Harbin Railway Bureau.
The original report from the state-run Beijing Youth Daily may have been deleted as the link now leads to a “not found” page. The regime mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency has also deleted its report.
A netizen on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, commented on the incident, “Those who served in the military and their families have petitioned many times for jobs at the Harbin Railway Bureau but got no results. So the parents felt desperate and could only drink pesticide to get the government’s attention.”
Translation and research contributed by Lu Chen.