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China arrests six for ‘insulting’ soldiers killed in Indian border clash

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China has arrested at least six people for allegedly defaming four servicemen killed in a border shock with India last June, as the state media waged a propaganda campaign hailing dead troops as martyrs.

Police said six people have been held for up to 15 days across China, and another defendant currently living abroad is at risk of being detained upon his return.

Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, the government has suppressed voices that criticize national heroes or question the official narrative about them.

In 2018, China passed a law that prohibits people from “insulting or slandering heroes and martyrs”. Originally a civil case, the law will be made a criminal offense through an amendment to the country’s criminal law, which comes into force next month. Under this amendment, people who “insult, slander or use other means to damage the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs and to damage the public interest of society” can be imprisoned. up to three years.

The detentions underscore Beijing’s sensitivity over the border clash with India – the deadliest between the two nuclear-weapon neighbors in more than 40 years.

For eight months, the Chinese military has not disclosed any details of the toll of the bloody hand-to-hand conflict with Indian troops in the Galwan Valley region of the Himalayas. New Delhi previously said at least 20 Indian soldiers died during the scuffle.

Friday, the official journal of the Chinese army revealed that four soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were killed in the clash and received posthumous awards. A seriously injured regimental commander also received an award, according to the report.

In a propaganda campaign that followed, Chinese state media rushed to praise the five PLA soldiers for their loyalty, bravery and sacrifice, publishing long, emotional reports of their life stories. .

State media also published Beijing’s account of the event, accusing Indian troops of violating an agreement with China and crossing the border on the Chinese side to set up tents. According to the PLA Daily, the Chinese side was first outnumbered by Indian troops who attacked with steel tubes, clubs and stones. But when the PLA reinforcements arrived, they finally “defeated” the Indian soldiers and drove them out.

The Indian military did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. Delhi has previously blamed Beijing for the skirmish.

However, not all Chinese citizens are convinced by Beijing’s account of the incident.

On Friday morning, a popular blogger with 2.5 million Weibo subscribers in China, similar to Twitter, raised questions about the official death toll, suggesting that the actual number could be over four. “This is why India dares to publish the number and names of their victims, because from India’s point of view they won cheaply,” he wrote.

In the evening, police in eastern city of Nanjing arrested the blogger, identified by his surname Qiu, for “plotting quarrels and causing unrest” – an offense commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissent and criticism.

Writing Nanjing police on their official Weibo account on Saturday claimed that Qiu had “distorted the truth” and “caused an extremely abominable impact on society,” adding that he had confessed to his “illegal act.”

Weibo said Friday night that it had closed Qiu’s account, which he used to post the remarks, as well as an additional account he owns.

Police said a total of four Weibo users have been arrested for posting or commenting on other people’s posts. Two other people were arrested for their comments during group chats on WeChat, China’s popular messaging app, after other group members reported them to police. The other person was arrested by Internet police during an “online patrol” after posting to their personal WeChat feed.

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