Friday, August 03, 2007


Earlier this week, Chinese President Hu Jintao praised the great role and monumental contribution of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in safeguarding China's national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security.

The Shanghai Daily reported Hu paid respects to all "old comrades" who have made enormous contribution to China's revolution, development, reform drive and army-building.

"We are in profound memory of" the older-generation proletarian revolutionaries and militarists and numerous revolutionary martyrs whose "historic contribution will stay with mountains and rivers, and shine with the sun and the moon," the president said speaking at a workshop sponsored by the Central Military Commission for army veterans to mark the 80th anniversary of the PLA's founding.

The problem is like many other things in China today (and something most American's don't understand), what central government and Party leaders proclaim and what happens at the local level are simply not the same.

It seems that old PLA veterans are getting the shaft by local officials.

Although Hu has actually been trying to help out veterans and has often called out local leaders for their poor treatment of veterans, it seems he has little power to actually do anything about it.
Far be it from me to suggest such a thing, but maybe its time the President remind those local leaders what often happens to corrupt officials who screw the people, if you know what I mean.

The following is from Asia Net News.

No partying for veterans as Communist army turns 80

Discontent is growing among Chinese ex-soldiers. They accuse local governments of leaving them without work after dismantling war units, and of not paying them pensions as decreed by the central government, which fears the veterans’ protests.

On the occasion of festivities to mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Liberation Army, Chinese veterans say they have “little to celebrate” because “no one listens to their grievances or helps them to emerge from a tragic situation” of unemployment and poverty.

The government has demobilised 1.7 million soldiers in more than two decades. Between 1997 and 2000 alone, 500,000 troops were rendered redundant to aid the nation's “modernisation” drive. However, no alternative form of employment or social security has so far been found for these demobbed soldiers.

A veteran of the Navy, Mrs Chen, told the South China Morning Post about her odyssey: “I gave service for many years but when I was dismissed from active service I no longer received anything. What’s more, I have serious kidney problems now because I used to work with toxic substances. The government has never cared about this so I have tried to kill myself twice.”

After years of legal battles, Chen managed to get a council pension but not a military one: “Now I want to live, to be close to my only daughter. The only thing I ask is to be able to buy food, and medicines for treatment.”

Ex-soldiers put the blame most of all on provincial governments which, after having demobilized armed units in the wake of economic openings and subsequent industrial privatization, did not manage to supply new places of work to soldiers and also refuses to pay them the service insurance stipulated by the central government.

The matter has been taken up by President Hu Jintao himself, who since 2003 has been asking for the “highest commitment” to supply soldiers with an alternative job. He has also reminded local governments of their duty towards “protectors of the Homeland”.

But his call appears to have fallen on deaf ears. A group of veterans said: “It is the autonomous municipality of Beijing that ignores us most of all. They don’t seem to hear what the central government is saying.” This statement was confirmed by an AsiaNews source in the capital who said: “Here it is said that there is no communication between Zhongnanhai [the headquarters of the central government, a few metres away from the entrance to the Forbidden City] and the rest of the city. The two ignore each other.”

Beijing fears the veterans’ discontent. The Community Party has always seen the armed forces as an indispensable tool to keep its monopoly over the government, which has lasted for more than 50 years now. Thanks to the army, the revolt of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 was suppressed. The army played a fundamental role in bringing about the end of the Cultural Revolution and the arrest of the Gang of Four.

In April, 1,500 retired officers and soldiers from 20 provinces wearing their old uniforms staged silent sit-down protests in front of the General Political Department of Beijing, a branch of the PLA which oversees personnel, propaganda dissemination, song and dance troupes and athletes.

The protest started on Monday 11 and ended on Wednesday 13 police and officials dispersed the protest by forcibly putting the petitioners on rented buses and sending them back to their hometowns. On the Wednesday, however, more than 400 retired soldiers gathered on the steps of the office of the department to protest.

It was the biggest protest by veterans in China since the 1949 revolution. An anonymous military source said: "The government was caught unprepared . . . It is worried that veterans will continue to link up and bring chaos to society.”

The Chinese government allocated US$ 60 billion to its military budget in 2004, but pensions for retired servicemen average 300 yuan (US$ 30) per month. One of them, decorated with 15 medals for bravery, said: “This is all I have left, after a life of service to the Party.”

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