BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that it was unaware of any protest after a report that thousands of former soldiers staged a sit-in outside a major military base complaining about a lack of proper benefits and pensions.
U.S.-based Radio Free Asia said that hundreds were detained at the protest on Tuesday outside the Central Military Commission, which has overall command of the military, in Beijing.
Many of those involved were veterans of China’s short border war with Vietnam in 1979 and the 1969 border conflict with the then-Soviet Union, the report said.
“I don’t know about this situation you have mentioned,” Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a monthly news briefing, when asked about the protest and the veterans’ complaints.
Tens of thousands of “mass incidents” - the usual euphemism for protests - occur each year in China, triggered by corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other grievances, unnerving the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.
Many people try to use “petitions” to bypass the legal system and directly bring complaints to the attention of government officials, a process that dates back to imperial times, though some cases do end up in court.
Few cases ever get resolved though, and petitioners can stage noisy protests out of frustration.
China has the world’s largest military and the government of President Xi Jinping is pumping billions of dollars into an impressive modernization program, including aircraft carriers, anti-satellite missiles and stealth jets.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie