Around a thousand retired military officers from all over China gathered in Beijing’s heat on May 20, appealing to the regime for their pensions and veterans’ employment; they were soon rounded up and thrown into a makeshift “black jail,” which operates outside the law, for the night.
Protests by retired military officers are an embarrassment for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), so groups are monitored strictly in an effort to prevent mass petitions or demands for their rights. However, they continue to organize demonstrations despite official efforts to silence them.
Veteran officers from Chengdu, Lanzhou, Jinan, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shenyang, protested in front of the Central Military Commission General Political Department, calling attention to the appalling living conditions caused by failed veterans’ policies.
As representatives aired their grievances over a loudspeaker, recounting the sacrifices of the military, supporters lined the road chanting slogans and a large contingent of Beijing police patrolled the demonstration.
Representatives of the group were kept outside and not allowed in the building to present their appeals until afternoon, reported Human Rights Campaign in China, a website dedicated to grassroots human rights activities.
Hundreds of demonstrators were taken that evening to a black jail for petitioners in Jiu Jingzhuang, the detention and deportation center run by the State Bureau of Letters and Calls, according to military officer Mr. Chen, one of the protesters.
Still other retired military officers were detained by officials from their respective hometowns, and prevented from traveling to Beijing to join the protest. Retired officer Li Guoxiang was stopped by three policemen at the Shijiazhuang train station and taken away in a white car, according to a report. He has disappeared without a trace. Wu Donghai was placed under house arrest in Shaanxi, while retired officer Mr. Wang from Xinjiang was stopped on his way to Beijing.
In recent years, retired military officers from all parts of China have arrived at Beijing, attempting to appeal for their pensions and their promised post-retirement employment. Caught in a bureaucratic tangle, they find the positions supposedly arranged for them did not exist, as local governments fail to implement the veterans’ employment policies, leaving the retired officers unemployed and without a means to support themselves. Many of them thus live in appalling conditions.
Mr. Wu, a retired military officer, said, “Some of us served as military officers for two or three decades, devoting all our earlier lives to defending the nation’s frontiers, but now we’re abandoned.” He went on, “After retiring from our military posts, we find we have no job and have to look for work at our age. At the age of fifty to sixty, we live alone with no pension, can’t afford housing, and still have to pay for our medical insurance.” He said that many officers do manual labor to make a living, working at low paying temporary jobs.
Research by Ariel Tian. Translation by Amy Lien. Written in English by Carol Wickenkamp.