A popular blogger in China was sentenced to eight months in prison on Monday for "defaming martyrs" after he suggested that the number of Chinese soldiers killed during last year's border clash with India was higher than the official count.
In February, well over six months after the clashes, the Chinese military said four of its soldiers were killed in a skirmish with Indian troops in the disputed Galwan Valley.
Qiu Ziming posted on China's Twitter-like social media platform Weibo saying that the actual death toll on the Chinese side might have been higher.
He also said that the commanding officer survived "because he was the highest-ranking officer there" — a remark that outraged Chinese officials.
Indian and Chinese soldiers clashed with iron rods, sticks, and stones last June in what was the deadliest clash between China and India in more than four decades.
New Delhi said Chinese troops had intruded into its side of the territory, triggering tensions. China had denied the transgression and accused Indian troops of provocative behavior.
Timeline of Qiu's case
Qiu was arrested on February 20, a day after his Weibo post. He was subsequently charged under a new provision of China's criminal law that bans the "defamation of martyrs and heroes."
The 38-year old was also ordered to publicly apologize through national media outlets within 10 days.
"I feel extremely ashamed of myself, and I'm very sorry," he was quoted as saying by the state-run newspaper The Global Times.
A court in the eastern city of Nanjing on Monday ruled that Qiu had "infringed on the reputation and honor of heroes and martyrs ... and confessed to his crimes."
China's new provision
Qiu is the first person to be jailed under the new provision which came into effect in March.
In 2018, China's national legislature passed a law making "defamation of martyrs and heroes" a civil offense.
This was made a criminal offense in February and police have since arrested at least six bloggers for allegedly defaming the dead soldiers in online comments of Qiu's post.
The crackdown highlights the political sensitivity of the border clash in China.
adi/msh (AFP, Xinhua)