Police in China have arrested a blogger over comments he made about Chinese soldiers who died in a Himalayan border clash with Indian troops last year.
The 38-year-old man had “maliciously distorted the truth” about the conflict, said authorities. He is one of at least seven people that China has detained for their allegedly inappropriate remarks on this incident. The incident, which took place last June, was the first deadly clash in the disputed border area in 45 years. A Chinese law passed in 2018 bans people from “slandering heroes and martyrs”.
However, a person can only be criminally charged for this offense under an amendment to China’s criminal law, which comes into effect next month, according to a column by China Daily. This would enable those charged under this law to be imprisoned for up to three years. “If [Qiu] committed the offence ten days later, he would be the first person punished by this law. It’s a pity,” said a columnist with China Daily.
According to a statement issued by the Nanjing Public Security Bureau, the man – identified only by his surname Qiu – was arrested on 19 February. The 38-year-old blogger had 2.5 million followers on Weibo, according to local reports. The BBC was unable to verify this as his account has since been removed.
Microblogging site Weibo announced last week that Mr Qiu’s account had been banned for one year. The man has since confessed to “illegal behaviour to gain the attention of netizens, distorting facts on Weibo and slandering and demeaning the heroes defending the border”.
He has since been detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” – a charge commonly used against critics. The same charge has been used against a handful of other people who have also been detained for their remarks on the same incident – what exactly they said has not been revealed. China had earlier last week revealed for the first time that four of its soldiers died in a clash with Indian troops at the Galwan Valley in India’s Ladakh region.
Previously, India said that 20 of its soldiers were killed in last year’s clash, while Beijing acknowledged casualties but did not disclose details. China’s military news outlet PLA Daily named the “heroic” Chinese soldiers who gave their “youth, blood and even life” to the region – Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran. They were all given posthumous awards.
India and China have been locked in a border dispute for decades. The root cause of the tension is an ill-defined, 3,440km (2,100-mile)-long disputed border called the Line of Actual Control. Rivers, lakes and snow-caps along the frontier mean the line can shift, bringing soldiers face to face at many points, sparking a confrontation. The two countries however have a long-standing agreement to not use guns or explosives along the border.
In January this year, the two armies also clashed along the border in the north-east in India’s Sikkim state, leaving troops on both sides injured. But India and China have since agreed to “disengage” from the border are now in the midst of pulling back troops from parts of it.