On the morning of Nov. 23 a group of over 1,000 veterans of the Cultural Revolution protested outside of the People’s Square in Shanghai to appeal for benefits they said they had earned while serving the regime.
The protesters were “educated youths” in Shanghai, individuals sent to remote Xinjiang fresh out of high school in the 1960s to construct the border area. As the Cultural Revolution ended, they returned to Shanghai. For decades they have been denied housing, retirement and medical benefits, many of them struggling to make ends meet.
Xie Huli, one of the protesters, told The Epoch Times that over 1,000 veterans of the Cultural Revolution gathered at the People’s Square in the morning of on Nov. 23, raising banners bearing the words, “Zhang Weimin Innocent,” and “Petitioners Innocent!” They protested for entitlements and also for the release of Zhang Weimin, a rights activist who had represented the group and was imprisoned by the authorities for doing so.
Xie further said that, as youths under 26, they were sent by the Shanghai city government to the remote Gobi desert in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, supposedly to build and safeguard the border. But they were actually being tricked into frontier military service.
During the Cultural Revolution period, from 1966-1976, over 100,000 young people were sent to Xinjiang. Their youths were spent there, but the entitlements they were supposed to be given were then denied for decades.
On April 19 of this year activist Zhang Weimin, who had organized the peaceful protests that had been going on since 2003, was arrested and detained on the charge of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” On May 24 she was convicted of that charge and on Nov. 1 sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Zhang appealed to the Shanghai Intermediate People’s Court against the verdict on Nov. 10.
Xie Huli, husband of Zhang Weimin, was among those protesting. He stood out in the crowd with an unfurled banner bearing the words, “Petitioners Innocent, Zhang Weimin Innocent.” When they caught sight of it, about 30 police dashed toward him, grabbing the banner in his hand and tearing it into pieces, according to witnesses. The police then tried to confiscate other banners but were forced out of the crowd by outraged protesters chanting slogans.
The police action only fueled the anger of the veterans. The group, clearly agitated, began chanting more loudly and began overrunning the police, who then stopped trying to tear away banners and instead beat out a retreat to the nearest government building 30 meters away, or sought refuge in their police cars, according to witnesses.
A veteran said that they have been appealing for benefits since 2003, during which time numerous veterans have been beaten, detained in forced labor camps, and sent to mental hospitals.
Read the original Chinese article.