China says to tackle veterans' benefits after high-profile protest in capital

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will keep tackling the difficulties facing demobilized soldiers and pays attention to resolving their problems, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday, after hundreds protested outside a major military building against job losses.

China last year announced it would cut troop levels by 300,000, targeting the bulk of the reductions by the end of 2017, as it seeks to spend more money on high-tech weapons for its navy and air force.

Tens of thousands of protests take place in China every year, triggered by grievances over corruption, pollution, illegal land grabs and other woes, unnerving the stability-obsessed ruling Communist Party.

There are periodic protests by former soldiers, including one on Tuesday in Beijing, when hundreds of people wearing green camouflage uniforms chanted and waved protest banners and national flags.

In recent years some veterans have appealed for help in their personal and employment problems, the Defence Ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

The ruling Communist Party, government and Central Military Commission “care about veterans and pay high attention to resolving their problems”, it said.

The government has adopted preferential policies to improve the living conditions of veterans, and “the temporary living difficulties of some veterans will be resolved”, the ministry added.

The English-language edition of the state-run Global Times said the protests drew more than 1,000 participants, although the ministry did not give a figure in its statement.

China has the world’s largest military and the government of President Xi Jinping is pumping billions of dollars into a modernization program, including aircraft carriers, anti-satellite missiles and stealth jets.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez