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China jails blogger who wrote that PLA suffered higher casualties in Galwan

Photo shows Chinese PLA soldiers with spears and nail-studded clubs on the Indian border (Photo: IANS)

China has jailed Qiu Ziming—popular blogger and internet celebrity, for eight months and has asked him to publicly apologise through the national media and domestic websites within 10 days.

This development takes place in the anniversary month of the Galwan Valley clash with India that took place on June 15, 2020 last year.

Qiu, with the nom de plume of 'Labixiaoqiu', has 2.5 million online followers. His crime was that he wrote that the Chinese PLA might have suffered more than four casualties on the India China border as officially-mentioned by Chinese authorities.

China continues to be prickly about the number of soldiers it lost in the Galwan Valley incident and it made the 38-year-old blogger apologise on State-broadcaster CCTV. Qiu said on national television: "I feel extremely ashamed of myself, and I'm very sorry".

Read also: China arrests a popular blogger for questioning Galwan video propaganda

A former reporter with the weekly Economic Observer, Qiu had said in his posts that a PLA commander survived the Galwan clashes because he was the highest-ranking officer—thus focussing on the privileges that senior PLA officers enjoy while the lesser soldiers are used as cannon fodder by the Communist Party of China.

India and China will mark the first anniversary of the Galwan Valley clash on June 15 this month. Chinese troops had intruded into Indian territory and assaulted Indians with clubs and iron-studded rods. Indian soldiers fought bravely and pushed back the Chinese inflicting heavy casualties on them.

In a matter of days India acknowledged that it lost 20 troops in the Chinese assault and certain Indian media reports claimed that China lost over 40 soldiers in the clash. The Indian media cited military sources that China had to evacuate dozens of their dead and injured soldiers from the icy battlefield through helicopters which that gave them an estimate of the Chinese dead and wounded.

The issue of Chinese casualties was debated in the international media for months, with US intelligence claiming that China lost more soldiers than India in an assault that it had planned. The Americans also concluded that a senior Chinese general had ordered "the attack on Indian troops to teach India a lesson" but did not foresee the disastrous outcome it would have on the morale of the Chinese soldiers.

Later, a Chinese dissident in the US hit global headlines for alluding to in an opinion article in The Washington Times that China is not divulging the number of soldiers killed in Galwan as it could fuel resentment against the Xi Jinping regime.

Much to China's embarrassment, in February this year, Russian news agency TASS also said that 45 Chinese soldiers were killed in the clashes.

For months, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson declined to give the number of PLA casualties in briefings. Later, as the India-China border simmered with tension all through the year, the number of dead PLA soldiers in the Galwan clash became an issue on China's social media networks as netizens and concerned parents raised queries about their boys and whether Chinese soldiers will be accorded military honours or die unforgotten and unremembered.

A Nanjing court in East China's Jiangsu Province handed the sentence of eight months in prison for 'defaming martyrs', reported China's State-run newspaper Global Times.

The court said that Qiu had ''truthfully confessed to his crime'', and has promised to the court that he would never commit the crime again. Besides the justice system in China, even the State-owned media has been hounding Qiu. State news agency Xinhua accused Qiu of "damaging the reputation of heroes, hurting nationalistic feelings and poisoning patriotic hearts" with his sensational posts.

China had in April 2020 intruded into Indian territory when the Indian Army was in a Covid-19 imposed lockdown and was asked to observe "no movement". Taking advantage of the coronavirus, the PLA breached the Line of Actual Control (LAC) agreements that had kept "peace and tranquility" on the borders. The soldiers entered Indian territory and were discovered only after India resumed patrolling in May 2020.

The stand-off imposed by China continues for over a year. Now both sides have fortified their positions with upto 50,000-60,000 troops each along with heavy weapons. Latest reports say that China is still moving its soldiers to the Indian border, which was recently mentioned by Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane to the media.