Hundreds of retired soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army gathered outside China’s defense ministry in Beijing yesterday to protest spending cuts and demand veterans’ benefits.
The rare protest highlighted the difficult task Beijing faces in cutting spending while keeping citizens fully employed. While it went on late into the evening, according to reports in the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal (paywall), there was no mention of the rally in China’s state newspapers today. And on Chinese social media, search results on terms like “military cuts” and “protests” and “the ministry” were heavily censored.
The Wall Street Journal described the protestors as being “mostly middle-aged men” in green fatigues. Many had been out of work for years after retiring from the military and were demanding jobs, a human rights activist told the AP. Last September Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a sweeping reorganization of the military that includes cutting some 300,000 soldiers, about 13% of the total.
A search on “military cuts” on Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social media platform, showed scattered posts from last September, but nothing on yesterday’s protest. One Weibo page with the topic of “military cuts” had nearly 4,200 views, but no content.