China jails blogger for Galwan comments

He is the first person to be jailed under a new provision of China’s criminal law that bans the “defamation of martyrs and heroes”.

June 01, 2021 11:15 am | Updated 06:54 pm IST - Beijing

Chinese authorities have sentenced a once popular blogger to eight months in prison “for defaming martyrs” over his comments questioning the government’s account of last year’s clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley.

Qiu Ziming “received a jail term of eight months for defaming martyrs on Monday,” the Communist Party-run Global Times reported, adding this was “China’s first such reported case since a new amendment was attached to the Criminal Law” that introduced penalties for “insulting” or “slandering” national heroes or martyrs.

The court said the sentence was “lighter” than the maximum possible three-year sentence because he had “confessed to his crime”.

Mr. Qiu was among at least half a dozen people known to have been detained for comments questioning the government over the June 15, 2020 clash in Galwan Valley in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives. At least four Chinese soldiers died in the clash, with China announcing military honours for them - its only confirmation so far of casualties - eights months after the clash took place.

Mr. Qiu (38), an investigative journalist formerly with The Economic Observer , was arrested in Nanjing in February after posting messages to his 2.5 million followers on Weibo , the Twitter-equivalent used in China.

He suggested that China’s fatalities would have been higher than four because as per the official account, some of the soldiers died coming to the aid of troops in difficulty, who, in his view, would have suffered losses as well. He also questioned why the announcement took eight months, while India had, in contrast, promptly recognised the 20 Indian soldiers who died. India’s prompt announcement, he wrote, suggested that “in India’s view they won and paid a lesser price”.

Police in Nanjing had said he was arrested for “releasing false information and smearing the four heroes who died and one who was wounded when dealing with the Indian military’s illegal trespassing”.

Last week, Wang Jinyu (19), a resident of Chongqing who is also a U.S. permanent resident and is wanted by China for similarly commenting on the Galwan clash, was freed after being detained in Dubai, the Associated Press reported. Asked about his detention in Dubai, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Monday that “competent Chinese authorities are investigating and handling the case in accordance with law.”

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