China to arrest 19 over military veteran protests: state media

Chinese authorities on Friday ordered the arrest of 19 people for allegedly organising protests by military veterans in two cities last year, state media reported.

The 19 people are accused of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” in the eastern cities of Pingdu in October or Zhenjiang in June of last year and “intentional assault”, official news agency Xinhua reported, citing prosecutors.

The Zhenjiang rally was organised to protest the alleged beating of elderly ex-soldiers demanding better pensions, witnesses told AFP at the time.

The demonstrations highlighted the years-long struggle among former soldiers of the world’s biggest standing army to get better benefits, posing a headache for the country’s Communist leadership.

Authorities in China have little tolerance for public dissent but the People’s Liberation Army and its veterans are venerated as heroes, and protests continued for days in the city of Zhenjiang before police intervened.

The nine suspected organisers of the Zhenjiang protest allegedly assembled more than 1,000 people in front of the city government illegally and “engaged in violent confrontation with police and security staff,” Xinhua said.

In Pingdu 10 people were alleged to have organised veteran protests which Xinhua said attacked the police, smashed cars and obstructed government operations.

Thousands of army veterans have staged protests in recent years against officials whom they accuse of denying them benefits.

China’s defence ministry had vowed in 2016 to improve living standards for veterans after thousands had demonstrated outside army offices in Beijing.

China has laid off more than a million troops since the 1980s and vowed last year to further cut its two-million-strong army.


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