China jails popular blogger over India border clash death toll query

·3-min read

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.

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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.

The comments came after the Chinese military broke months of silence on the matter to say that four Chinese soldiers were killed and one was seriously wounded in the clash in the disputed Himalayas border last year. China also released a clip of the clash, showing Qi walking towards Indian troops with open arms and trying to stop them from further advancing towards the Chinese troops’ side.

Qiu’s Weibo account was shut down on the day he posted the remarks. He was detained the next day for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, an offence that has been criticised as targeting critics, and then formally charged with the crime of “infringing on the reputation and honour of heroes and martyrs”.

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The Jianye District People’s Court in Nanjing held a hearing for Qiu’s case on Monday, People’s Daily reported.

“The court … announced the judgment that Qiu committed the crime of infringing on the reputation and honour of heroic martyrs and was sentenced to eight months in prison,” it said.

“Qiu was ordered [by the court] to apologise publicly through major domestic portals and national media within 10 days from the effective date of the judgment, so as to eliminate the influence [of his remarks].”

After the authority identified the dead and wounded soldiers in February, there was an online wave of tributes and poems for the soldiers.

State news agency Xinhua reported that Qiu was one of at least seven people detained over comments about soldiers in the border disputes Chinese authorities regarded as inappropriate.

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China passed a law in 2018 that criminalises the act of insulting or slandering “heroes and martyrs”. Under an amendment to the law that came into effect in March, anyone found guilty faces up to three years in prison.

Qiu confessed his crimes and pleaded guilty after being arrested, and said in court that he would never do it again, according to the People’s Daily report.

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