During the Cultural Revolution, 100,000 teenagers from Shanghai were sent to Xinjiang as part of Mao Zedong’s plan to have the educated urban youth learn from China’s peasants. Many of them spent up to thirty years in Xinjiang before returning to Shanghai, where they have been treated like outsiders without the same housing, medical and pension rights as local residents. Now in their 60s, members of this “lost generation” are fighting for equal rights. A recent protest of 300 pensioners was broken up by police, the Telegraph reports:
Mr Guan trained as a pilot, studying aviation at Nanchang university.
But in Xinjiang he was put to work in the fields. In his first year, he earned three yuan (30p) a month. By the time he left, in the mid 1990s, his monthly paychecks had risen to just 34 yuan.
Back in Shanghai, he receives a pension of 1,400 yuan, but even that, he says, is too little given the rocketing prices in China’s most modern city. So each week he gathered with Mrs Zhang and many others outside the local government to demand better care.
Then, in April, Mrs Zhang was seized by plain-clothes policemen on the street near her house. The government had identified her as a ringleader, branded the others as troublemakers, and yesterday she stood trial for “organising a crowd to cause a disturbance”, a crime that carries a three to seven-year sentence.
UPDATE: On Twitter, Telegraph reporter Malcolm Moore announced that Zhang Weiming, whose trial is mentioned in this article, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
See photographs of China’s lost generation taken in 1966 by a young French diplomat stationed in China.