Monthlong Veteran Protests in China Continue Ahead of Beijing’s ‘Army Day’
In China, protests by military veterans across multiple provinces are now entering their second month. In an attempt to quell the demonstrations, Chinese authorities recently announced an increase in monthly pensions and living subsidies for veterans.
The move has done little to cool off the protests ahead of Army Day on Aug. 1, when the Chinese regime commemorates the establishment of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1927.
On July 27, China’s Ministry of Veterans Affairs and Ministry of Finance said in a joint statement that the monthly living subsidy earmarked for sick veterans would increase from 500 yuan (about $73) to 550 yuan (about $81). Meanwhile, veterans who have served in combat saw their monthly subsidy increase from 550 yuan to 600 yuan ($88).
The annual pension for disabled veterans who became disabled from combat wounds was increased by 9 percent to 80,140 yuan (about $11,760).
The announcement came on the heels of veteran protests in at least three cities: Yantai in eastern China’s Shandong Province, Xuzhou in coastal China’s Jiangsu Province, and Daming County in northern China’s Hebei Province, according to a July 30 report by Voice of America (VOA).
The protest in Yantai took place on July 24, when local veterans showed up outside a meeting of the city’s delegates to the People’s Congress, the city’s rubber-stamp legislature. After failing to get the officials to meet with them, the veterans went to the city’s train station, wanting to continue their protest in Beijing. But local police showed up to prevent the veterans from boarding the train.
Mr. Qiu, a veteran from southern China’s Hunan Province, said the subsidy increase was only a symbolic gesture by the Chinese authorities because it was enacted under pressure from the ongoing protests, in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“A lot of veterans are unemployed. Before this round of protests, the local government turned a blind eye to us. The government only wanted to maintain social stability. And it is doing the same thing now as well [with continued protests],” said Qiu.
Mr. Wang, a veteran from Guilin City in southern China’s Guangxi region, said the move did not fully meet their demands.
“We demand that [authorities] address our problems based on the government pension regulation,” said Wang. “It is not about increasing the living subsidy. It is about the government not paying us a pension based on regulation.” Wang’s statement referred to the common practice of officials of embezzling pension funds meant to be disbursed to local veterans.
China’s veterans, unlike U.S. military veterans who are guaranteed certain benefits after serving, have been struggling to receive compensation.
Wei Jingsheng, a veteran Chinese human rights activist and democracy advocate, says the Chinese Communist Party believes soldiers are its personal bodyguards, obligated to serve the Party, and thus should not ask for a reward. In an opinion article published by RFA on July 5, he noted that when Chinese soldiers retire, the Chinese regime expects them to be volunteers for the Party.
“Basically, soldiers should be self-aware that they are nothing more than slaves” of the Party, in the eyes of the authorities, wrote Wei.
Many veterans seek redress from the central authorities for their grievances, and they often face harassment from Chinese authorities. In some cases, they’ve been thrown in “black jails,” or extralegal detention facilities, that are designed to intimidate petitioners into giving up their protests. In other cases, they’ve been charged and sentenced for “causing social disturbance.”
The recent deaths of two veterans have led observers to suspect foul play by the Chinese authorities, according to a July 28 report by Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch (CRLW), a civil rights group in central China’s Hubei Province.
Chu Qingzhong, a veteran and father of six children, and Chang Gang, a veteran with a 13-year-old child, died in a car accident at about 4 a.m. on July 27 while driving home. They had just finished petitioning at the local Ministry of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans who knew Chu and Chang suspect that the accident was a murder, carried out by people hired by the local authorities, according to CRLW. Prior to their deaths, Chu and Chang were sometimes followed by unidentified men while doing their petition work.
In Shanghai, two veterans were taken away by local police from their homes on the afternoon of July 27, according to CRLW. The organization suspects that the police have detained the veterans to prevent them from petitioning on the upcoming Army Day on Aug. 1.