About 100 retired military engineers in Guangdong who had worked on China's atomic weapons programme protested outside the provincial government building yesterday, complaining that the local authorities had failed to implement Beijing's orders to pay their pensions. The retired soldiers, in their 40s and 50s, stood in queues quietly, holding up banners saying 'Implement the central government's policy' and 'Admit we are nuclear soldiers'. They identified themselves as the 'Guangdong veterans of the People's Liberation Army's Technician 203 Division'. One protester said they were asking Guangdong to recognise the soldiers and pay them the allowances promised by the central government in June. The ministries of civil affairs and finance have asked their departments to increase allowances for military veterans who were involved in uranium mining. The protesters, most of whom had joined the division between 1971 and 1976, said their division was established in 1971 and mined the ore for 12 years. The Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch, a human rights watchdog based in Hubei , said it started receiving complaints from veterans last year. It said at least 60,000 soldiers of the Technician 203 Division suffered from radiation exposure. In a statement last year, it said at least 10 per cent of the soldiers who received heavy doses of radiation had died, and most of the rest had a variety of chronic diseases such as dementia. More than 20 police officers and security guards kept a close watch on the protesters and blocked their access to the building, and two dozen armed police monitored the events at the provincial government square. A police officer said the protest was illegal because according to mainland law, the veterans should select at most five representatives to talk to officials rather than gather outside a government building. He said reporters were not allowed to take pictures of or interview the protesters without applying to the provincial news office. He declined to say whether he knew about the State Council's interview regulations that allow foreign reporters to conduct interviews without making an application.