Chinese authorities have arrested at least six people and targeted a young man living abroad for making online posts about Chinese soldiers killed during border clashes with India.
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One of those arrested, Qiu Ziming, a blogger from Nanjing, was investigated for questioning the official Chinese death toll in the clashes (4 according to the Chinese government, 45 according to the Indian government).
Last week, the Chinese government had bestowed posthumous honors to four soldiers who died after the clash in the Galwan Valley with Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan border regions.
Those people were arrested under a new 2018 law that makes it illegal to defame Chinese “heroes and martyrs.” An amendment introduced this month extends current penalties to up to 3 years in prison.
Another 19-year-old young man, Wang, who Chinese authorities say has been living abroad since July 2019, was “prosecuted online” for comments he made about soldiers on Weibo, comments that police say “caused problems on the internet” and a “negative social impact.”
“Heroes and martyrs are not allowed to be desecrated. Cyberspace is not outside the law. Public security organs will crackdown on acts that openly insult the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs in accordance with the law,” says a statement released by Chongqing police.
The others arrested are all between 20 and 40 years old and were accused of committing their “crimes” on Weibo and WeChat. They were sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 days.
Qui Ziming was accused of fighting and causing trouble online, a broadly defined crime that can cost up to 10 years in jail in the Asian country, a charge that is often used against activists and journalists. Qiu’s Weibo account, which was followed by 2.5 million followers, has been suspended.
Images of the soldiers and patriotic quotes attributed to the soldiers released by state media triggered millions of online posts and comments, including the hashtag “they died for me.”
On February 11, both the Indian and Chinese governments announced they were withdrawing troops from the border. According to China’s defense ministry, both governments began an organized and synchronized disengagement.
Incidents had erupted in the Karakoram Mountains in early May, when Indian authorities reported the encroachment of Chinese soldiers into India, who set up tents and guard posts, ignoring verbal warnings from Indian patrols. The situation then degenerated and at least 20 Indian soldiers died in the clashes.