A Chinese internet celebrity with over 2.5 million followers on Weibo has been sentenced to eight months jail and ordered to apologise publicly, after he questioned the official death toll of Chinese soldier in last year’s Galwan Valley clash.
Qiu Zimin, 38, on Tuesday become the first person to be sentenced under new amendments to China’s Criminal Law, which among other things, made “defaming martyrs” a punishable offence.
According to reports, Qiu had suggested that the actual death toll might have been higher than the official count, and also questioned whether a Chinese commanding officer survived “because he was the highest-ranking officer there".
The blogger was among six people who were arrested in February for posting about the Galwan Valley clash, which left over 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unconfirmed number of Chinese soldiers.
The high-altitude battle was fought with clubs and stones, due to an agreement between the two countries that firearms would not be deployed along the contested border regions.
Qiu, known as "Labixiaoqiu" online, angered officials after he suggested in a blogpost that China’s death toll may have been higher than the six that was officially reported. China only revealed its losses months after the incident, which led to a sharp decline in relations with India and a border-standoff with thousands of troops and war machines deployed, the tensest standoff between the two nuclear armed neighbours since the 1967 Chola incident.
As part of his sentence, Qui made a televised apology on China’s primetime CCTV channel wearing a prison uniform. His sentence was reportedly commuted after he pleaded guilty to the charges.
Blogger #QiuZiming sentenced under 2018 Law on Martyrs and Heroes. Another, #WangJingyu, wanted for the same crime, escaped deportation from Dubai, but now stuck in Istanbul. Yet another one, #PanRui, is thought to be hiding in the UK. @SafeguardDefend https://t.co/CMtLjBhq3V— Peter Dahlin (彼得·达林) (@Peterinexile) June 1, 2021
China's state-run news website Global Times said Qui had "released false information...smearing the four heroes who were killed" during the Galwan Valley clash. It said he was detained a day after the post and his Weibo account was also suspended.
Qui, who was arrested in February, is one among six people who were arrested in February over their online posts about Galwan Valley. China has also eyed dissidents posted from abroad, a case where a 19-year-old Chinese national was detained in Dubai after he fled Beijing, following posts about the clash.
Wang Jingyu, who had permanent residency in the US, was arrested in April in the UAE while travelling to Istanbul, Turkey. He appealed to the international community for help after plain-clothes police officers arrested him while he was coming off an Emirates flight at the Dubai International Airport, trying to connect onto New York. He was later freed after his arrested garnered international attention.
China on Monday said it was probing the incident.
It can be noted that in 2020, China’s implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law included a provision to cover “offences committed from outside Hong Kong by a person who is not a permanent resident”, effectively claiming jurisdiction anywhere on earth over crimes like “subversion” and “secession”.
Similarly, as per China’s Criminal Law, it “may be applicable to foreigners, who outside PRC territory, commit crimes against the PRC state or against its citizens”.