A Chinese blogger has been sentenced to eight months in prison for slandering Chinese soldiers who died during a clash with India last year.
A court in Nanjing, in eastern China's Jiangsu province, also directed 38-year-old Qiu Ziming to publicly apologise through national media within 10 days to address the “negative impact” of his writing.
Qiu is known as "Labixiaoqiu" online and has more than 2.5 million followers on Chinese social media. He was accused of publishing false information in a Weibo post on 19 February about four Chinese soldiers who died during a clash with the Indian military back in the summer of 2020 in the Galwan Valley.
Qiu was one of a number of bloggers targeted by the authorities for their comments on the incident. He had questioned the official tally of deaths and also pointed out that a commanding officer was among the survivors, alluding to possible special treatment.
A day after his post, the blogger was detained and his Weibo account was suspended for at least a year.
India and China have been involved in a border standoff since May 2020. In June that year, a hand-to-hand skirmish between the two sides at the border left 20 Indian soldiers dead, and an unspecified number of Chinese casualties.
Later in February 2021, China for the first time admitted that it had suffered four casualties in the clash even though Russian media reports said Chinese casualties were over 40.
Qiu’s post had “infringed on the reputation and honour of heroes and martyrs”, the court said on Tuesday.
According to Chinese state media, Qiu’s sentence was “lenient” because the Chinese court recognised he had confessed to his crime and promised never to repeat it. The blogger was charged with nearly two dozen clauses including those related to defaming martyrs and attacking the police.
On 1 March, the blogger openly apologised for his misbehaviour during a prime time programe aired by China's state broadcaster CCTV.
“I feel extremely ashamed of myself, and I'm very sorry. My behaviour was an annihilation of conscience,” he had said.
The blogger was sentenced under a new amendment to criminal law that has recently come into effect.
Under the revised law, anyone who “insults, slander or defames heroes and martyrs” can be imprisoned for a period of up to three years.