Chinese travel blogger jailed for 7 months over ‘disrespectful’ photos at soldiers’ cemetery

·3-min read

A travel blogger has been jailed for seven months after posting pictures of himself in “disrespectful poses” at a cemetery for Chinese soldiers in Xinjiang, according to state media.

Li Qixian – who was blogging under the name Xiao Xian Jayson – had shared nine photographs on social media platforms WeChat and Xiaohongshu in July after visiting the Kangxiwa Martyrs’ Cemetery in Xinjiang, captioning them with the Chinese characters for “respect”.

But two of the photos drew widespread criticism online, with many claiming that Li appeared to show no respect for the veterans buried in the cemetery, including a soldier who died in a clash on the Indian border last year.

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On Monday, state mouthpiece People’s Daily said the Pishan County People’s Court in Xinjiang had sentenced Li to seven months in prison for “infringing on the reputation of heroes and martyrs” and ordered him to make a public apology within 10 days. It did not say when the sentence had been handed down.

Li, who had pleaded guilty, is the latest to fall foul of a law passed in 2018 that criminalised the act of insulting or slandering “heroes and martyrs”. Anyone found guilty faces up to three years’ jail under an amendment to the law that took effect in March.

More than 100 soldiers are buried at the Kangxiwa Martyrs’ Cemetery in Xinjiang. Photo: Weibo
More than 100 soldiers are buried at the Kangxiwa Martyrs’ Cemetery in Xinjiang. Photo: Weibo

Authorities have targeted comments made about Chinese soldiers involved in a deadly border clash with Indian troops in the Himalayas last June, with at least seven people detained since then over remarks deemed inappropriate or defamatory. Twenty Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops were killed in the clash, the worst conflict along the disputed border in more than four decades. Popular blogger Qiu Ziming, 38, was jailed for eight months in June after he suggested the Chinese death toll was higher than the official tally and questioned the account of Qi Fabao, a commander who was injured in the skirmish.

A photo of travel blogger Li at the gravestone of a soldier who died in the clash, Chen Xiangrong, was one of the two images that caused outrage online. Li was pictured in a cap and sunglasses, smiling casually, with one hand on the gravestone and the other in a gesture that many believed was meant to look like a gun pointing at the grave. The other picture showed the blogger leaning against a stone displaying the cemetery’s name, with one hand in his pocket and the other touching his cap.

More than 100 soldiers are buried at the cemetery, including the four People’s Liberation Army troops killed in last year’s China-India border clash.

The travel blogger also drew a furious response with a post saying that “the youngest martyr was only 19 … everyone lit a cigarette to remember the lost soldiers, but I think the kids preferred to snack or play with their toys”.

Li’s social media accounts were shut down after the backlash came to the attention of Xinjiang authorities, and he was prosecuted on September 30. He was also banned from travelling to the region.

The blogger is not the first in China to have triggered a public backlash for their behaviour while travelling. Earlier in July, online celebrity Witty Dang Sister apologised after internet users were outraged by a video in which she was seen wearing a Lolita outfit, a subculture from Japan, and danced in front of the Lushun Museum in Dalian. The museum, built in the 1910s, is dedicated to the history of the Japanese military invasion of China before and during World War II.

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