02.06.2021, 10:23

China jails 38 year old blogger over comments about Galwan Valley

China has detained a popular blogger for his comments regarding the casualties of soldiers in Galwan Valley clash last year, and the blogger has been sentenced to eight months in prison.

A popular blogger on a Chinese social media platform was sentenced to eight months in prison over posts that the authorities deemed as defaming Chinese soldiers killed in a border clash with India last year.

Qiu Ziming, whose online name is “La Bi Xiao Qiu”, has 2.5 million followers on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.

He was sentenced to eight months in prison for “infringing on the reputation of heroes and martyrs”, and ordered to make a public apology, according to a report on Tuesday in People’s Daily, a Chinese state-controlled tabloid, according to South China Morning Post.

China jails 38 year old blogger over comments about Galwan Valley

Chinese troops close to the India-China border in February. Clashes last year between the two sides left dozens dead. Photograph: AP

Qiu, 38, a former reporter with The Economic Observer weekly newspaper, published two posts on Weibo in February, suggesting that a commander named Qi Fabao, who was badly wounded in the clash, survived because he was the highest ranking officer there. He also suggested that more Chinese soldiers were killed than were reported in the official death toll.

Qiu, who had more than 2.5 million followers on Weibo, had suggested in blogposts that the actual count might be higher than the official tally, and that a commanding officer survived “because he was the highest-ranking officer there” – a comment that irked officials, the Guardian reported.

Qiu’s guilty plea brought him a lighter sentence, the Global Times said, adding that Qiu must also apologise publicly in the media and through “major domestic portals” within 10 days. Qiu has already made a televised confession, apologising on primetime CCTV wearing a prison uniform.

The 38-year-old from Nanjing was arrested in February for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a broadly defined crime often used against journalist and activists, who are then prosecuted through an opaque justice system with conviction rates of more than 99%.

The Chinese Communist Party has long been accused of suppressing ideas that could undermine its sweeping authority.

In just the past few years, the government has attempted to muzzle critics by making them disappear without a trace, ordering people to physically barge into their houses, or locking up those close to critics as a kind of blackmail.

Last year, after Qiu Zimming's arrest, a second blogger was detained for comments made during a group chat on WeChat. The cops in Beijing said they had received a report "of a person aged 28, surnamed Chen, publishing insulting comments in a group chat about the PLA soldiers who died when dealing with the Indian military's illegal trespassing in the Galwan Valley."

Photo: SCMP

"The comments sparked fury among other members in the group," reported the Global Times, "who later reported his remarks to the police. The case was quickly investigated, and local police found Chen, who said he had done it to vent his emotions. Chen was detained, and the case is undergoing further investigation."

The third person was identified as a 25-year-old surnamed Yang, detained in southwestern Sichuan province, Mianyang, after he was reported for posting "smears toward the PLA soldiers, who fought in the China-India border clash." According to police authorities, "under social pressure, Yang confessed to the police the following day, and he was given seven days of detention."

Galwan valley clash: China-India skirmishes

Beginning on 5 May 2020, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in aggressive melee, face-offs and skirmishes at locations along the Sino-Indian border, including near the disputed Pangong Lake in Ladakh and the Tibet Autonomous Region, and near the border between Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Additional clashes also took place at locations in eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Maxar WorldView-3 satellite image shows ‘structures’ along LAC and Patrol Point 14 in the eastern Ladakh sector of Galwan Valley. Photo: reuters

In late May, Chinese forces objected to Indian road construction in the Galwan river valley. According to Indian sources, melee fighting on 15/16 June 2020 resulted in the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and casualties of 43 Chinese soldiers. Media reports stated that soldiers were taken captive on both sides and released in the coming few days while official sources on both sides went on to deny this.

Following the Galwan Valley skirmish on 15 June, some Indian campaigns about boycotting Chinese products were started. Action on the economic front included cancellation and additional scrutiny of certain contracts with Chinese firms, and calls were also made to stop the entry of Chinese companies into strategic markets in India. By November 2020, the Indian government had banned over 200 Chinese apps including apps owned by Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Sina and Bytedance.

Sally Polly