Hungry Chinese Veterans Appeal in Beijing

By Yan Ming, Radio Free Asia
January 21, 2007 Updated: January 21, 2007

CHINA—On January 15, at least 50 military veterans gathered outside the General Political Department of the People's Liberation Army in Beijing to make appeals. They requested that the central government resolve the problems of job placement and benefits and left or were taken into custody after making their appeals. Some organizers are now being monitored by the government.

These veterans came from different parts of China. It was reported that originally 300 intended to participate in the collective appeal but many of them were detained at home by local authorities, thus in the end only 50 arrived.

In the past, when military cadres retired from the army, they were transferred to civilian work. It was merely a new assignment and their status as cadres remained unchanged. However, with the launch of labor, social security and other reforms, the placement of retired military servicemen became problematic and more acute.

Policies favoring veterans were annulled. Many military cadres transferred to civilian work have lost their jobs and those who have reached retirement age are no longer able to enjoy the political and social benefits given to cadre positions accorded by previous policies. They are now appealing for their livelihood.

Veterans Express Their Frustration

Ex-military cadre Madam Wang retired from the army in 1998 and her pension has been reduced each year. Wang took part in the group appeal on January 15. In a telephone interview with RFA, she said, “There were many veteran cadres at the appeals office. I went in to register my own appeal, some of them went in together, while others remained outside. The officers in the appeals office asked about our situation in detail. We waited for a while and then officers in charge of our local regions removed us.”

Qiao Yanbing, an ex-military cadre from Yantai, Shandong Province, originally intended to visit Beijing to make an appeal but was put under house arrest by local authorities. In a phone interview, he said, “Ex-military cadres from Shandong, Yantai, Northeast China, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Guizhou, Shanxi, etc., wanted to make a collective appeal at the General Political Department on January 15.

The purpose of their request to the Central government was to implement policies in their favor, reduce the gap between rich and poor and to raise our objections against government corruption. This time, we organized more than 300 people but in reality only 50 arrived. In many areas, people like me could not make it. The local government knew that we were going to make an appeal. They mobilized the police, sending some of us to hotels and others to go on tours.”

Qiao Yanbing was a navy intelligence officer before he retired from military service. He was subsequently transferred to Dongfang Electronics Information Industry Group in Yantai, Shandong Province. As a middle ranking military cadre, Qiao was only given the job of managing the company's warehouse and later even demoted.

Another appellant, Major Zhou Laisheng, who was also interviewed, had a similar experience. Zhou said that they represented ex-military cadres in appeals on many occasions, but no one listened to them. Last year, Zhou was even detained for applying for a march to bring attention to their problem.

Zhou said, “Currently, our problem is we have no food and no jobs. We have appealed many times. Every time they told us, 'you go back, we will resolve your problem,' but the problem remains. In the last Tomb Sweeping Festival, we applied for permission to march to commemorate our soldiers killed in war according to the law. Not only did they reject the request, but also arrested and detained us. I was detained for 15 days on the charge of violating the social group administration regulation. They said that we had severely disturbed the social order.”