China has jailed a popular internet blogger Qiu Ziming for his online comments made in February about Chinese soldiers who died in a border clash with Indian soldiers at Galwan Valley in June last year.
Qiu Ziming aged 38 years, with over 2.5 million followers on China’s twitter-like Weibo was handed over an eight-month jail sentence by a court in Nanjing in eastern China’s Jiangsu province.
He was found guilty of “slandering heroes and martyrs”.
According to state media, he is the first person to be jailed under a new provision of China’s criminal law that bans the “defamation of martyrs and heroes”.
“Qiu, known as ‘Labixiaoqiu’ online, was also ordered to publicly apologize through major domestic portals and the national media within 10 days to eliminate the negative impact, the court ruled,” as per state-run tabloid.
Beijing acknowledged casualties in Galwan clashes in June last year but did not disclose any details while Delhi honored 20 Indian soldiers who were martyred in the clash.
After months of silence, the Chinese military in February this year said four soldiers were killed in what was the worst border conflict between India and China in decades.
China honored them as “border-defending heroes” posthumously.
There have been reports of more casualties on Chinese side, but China never acknowledged them.
Qiu, an internet celebrity on microblogging site Weibo, had posted a comment on 19th February seen by the government as offensive, after China released the casualty figures for the first time since the clash in June last year.
As per state media, he was detained a day later for stirring up trouble that brought about a severe negative social impact. Qiu’s Weibo account was also suspended.
On 1st March, Qiu publicly apologized for the post during a prime-time national news broadcast on China’s state broadcaster, CCTV.
Beijing passed a law in 2018 that made a civil offence of “defamation of martyrs and heroes”, including war-time heroes and modern-day figures such as fallen firefighters and soldiers.
It was made a criminal offence in February this year. At least eight persons in China have so far been arrested, detained, or have had proceedings initiated against them for insulting “PLA heroes and martyrs” online.
Last week, a permanent resident of the United States with Chinese descent, Wang Jingyu, aged 19, wanted by China under similar charges, was freed by Dubai police and boarded a flight to Turkey after spending weeks in detention.
According to a report by The Associated Press, Beijing had sought Wang over his comments on the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers.
Police in Wang’s hometown of Chongqing reportedly have cited him for violating a 2018 law against demeaning heroes and martyrs and called his parents in for questioning.
Wang had questioned on social media why the Chinese government waited six months to release information about PLA casualty figures, sparking a harassment campaign that saw him flee to Istanbul, as per the AP report.