Elderly threaten to disrupt NPC

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 1996, 12:00am

BEIJING is concerned that elderly people from the provinces may stage protests in the capital during next week's National People's Congress to air grievances over low wages and war reparations.

A Beijing-based war reparations campaigner, Tong Zeng, said yesterday he had been told to keep away from the elderly protesters.

'The central authorities are having a headache over those discontented old people,' said Mr Tong who is also a researcher with the China Research Centre on Ageing.

He said he had been approached by some elderly people for help over living difficulties in the past.

'Some elderly cadres find it hard to live on just 400 to 500 yuan (HK$372-465) a month while inflation is high,' he said.

'Beijing worries that such elderly people will come to me. The authorities have asked me not to collaborate with them.' In December, about 1,000 elderly people took to the streets of Wuhan, Hubei province, for a three-hour protest against inflation.

And there were also reports in the past year that some retired people in northeastern China staged peaceful protests outside government offices.

At the forthcoming National People's Congress meeting, some national legislators will keep up the pressure to win the authorities' support for thousands of war victims and relatives seeking reparations from Japan, he said.

The legislators will also warn the Government to guard against actions from Japan to distort its wartime atrocities, Mr Tong said.

Members from at least four congress delegations have said they will air their views on the issue, Mr Tong added.

He said legislators would also appeal to leading foreign affairs officials to stand up and safeguard the interests of the Chinese people on the compensation issue.

Last year, more than 600 intellectuals and over 10,000 war victims jointly signed a petition to the congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body, to appeal for their help in getting war reparations from Japan.

Meanwhile, Mr Tong said some congress delegates had planned to question the authorities over the confiscation of his passport in August last year, barring him from leading a group to Tokyo to lobby for war compensation.

'Their confiscation was illegal. They have failed to return the passport to me despite the fact that I have asked for it back several times,' Mr Tong said.