A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier who died in the June 15, 2020 clash in Galwan Valley was among 29 people honoured by China’s President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping on Tuesday.
The presentation of the “July 1 medal” comes ahead of the party’s 100-year anniversary, which is set to be marked in Beijing on Thursday with great fanfare, including a speech by Mr. Xi.
Ahead of July 1, Mr. Xi honoured 29 people who were “outstanding party members”. Among three of the awardees honoured posthumously was Chen Hongjun, a PLA soldier who died in the Galwan Valley clash last year. China had in February announced military honours posthumously for Chen and three others, finally confirming it had suffered casualties some eight months after the clash. Twenty Indian soldiers died in the clash that marked the most serious violence on the border since 1967.
Mr. Xi said the recipients of the medal had “maintained staunch faith” which was “to stay true to the original aspiration and dedicate everything, even the precious life, to the cause of the Party and people”. He said “generations of Chinese Communists have fought tenaciously for national independence and liberation, for prosperity and strength of the country, and for the happiness of the people.”
The PLA, unique among militaries as the military of a political party, has held its own commemorations ahead of July 1, including a ceremony and series of activities by the Xinjiang Military Command “to learn how PLA heroes, including the martyrs of the Galwan Valley conflict, defended and guarded the country’s borders”, the Communist Party-run Global Times reported, adding that the troops took a vow saying, “If war comes, I will not hesitate to rush like you to dedicate my last heartbeat to our motherland.”
Mr. Xi used Tuesday’s occasion to call on the more than 91 million party members “to boldly advance toward the second centenary goal of fully building a modern socialist country, as well as the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation”, referring to the 2049 centenary of the People’s Republic of China.
Among those honoured was Zhoigar, a Tibetan resident of a model border village called Yumai, who had in 2017 received a letter from Mr. Xi praising her patriotism and saying her example “will motivate more herders to set down roots in the border area like galsang flowers, and become guardians of Chinese territory”. Mr. Xi has pushed a plan since 2017 to build “moderately well-off villages” in border areas, under which 628 villages would be developed mostly along the borders with India and Bhutan. Some of the new settlements have come up on disputed territory claimed by India and Bhutan.
Other recipients of the award included Wang Shumao for “participation in the construction of the Nansha Islands [as China calls the Spratly Islands], developing civilian forces to safeguard China’s legitimate rights in the South China Sea and leading the way in resolutely safeguarding China’s territorial integrity and maritime rights without fear of death,” and Wang Zhanshan, a veteran of the Korean War (referred to in China as the “War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea”), the Global Times said.
Among the winners was Zhang Guimei, awarded for her work in setting up China’s first free high school for girls from poor families, Memetjan Wumer, an ethnic Uighur, awarded for being “a leading model against religious extremist forces” in Xinjiang, and Liu Guijin, a former diplomat, recognised for his contributions to China-Africa relations.