In this image taken from video footage run on February 19, 2021 by China’s CCTV, PLA regimental commander Qi Fabao (left) talks with members of the Indian military as Indian and Chinese troops face off in the Galwan Valley on the disputed border between China and India, on June 15, 2020
TASS had reported on Wednesday that 45 PLA soldiers were killed in the Galwan clash, earlier reports emerged from the US that the count was as high as 100 plus PLA soldiers killed
A barrage of hate messages directed at the Indian embassy’s Chinese social media account, an outpouring of grief from Chinese citizens, and more write-ups in official media blaming New Delhi for the military standoff with India – all these marked an uneasy Saturday, a day after information about the deaths of four People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers was released for the first time.
Thousands of abusive messages have targeted the Indian embassy’s Twitter-like Weibo account since information about four soldiers being killed and one injured in the deadly Galwan Valley clash last June was published in the PLA Daily newspaper on Friday.
Many of the abusive messages on the tightly-censored Weibo account are peppered with expletives.
Emotion is running high among Chinese netizens over the soldiers’ deaths, while state media reported that a person was arrested in Nanjing city for publishing insulting remarks about the PLA troopers.
On Friday, multiple videos purportedly showing the lead-up to the Galwan Valley clash between Indian and Chinese troops in June last year were uploaded on several websites, and shared and viewed hundreds of millions of times.
The edited videos show Chinese soldiers outnumbered by Indian troops. The message for the domestic audience was clear – Chinese troops showed restraint and valour while taking on Indian servicemen.
None of the videos claim that 20 Indian soldiers had died in the clash.
Photos of the four dead PLA soldiers circulated online, and evoked a strong reaction from Chinese citizens. For hundreds of millions of Chinese, it was the first time they learnt about their country’s soldiers dying in a battle.
The Chinese government seemed set to mine the people’s emotion by allowing state media outlets to publish photos of the deceased from when they were young students.
The news website, thepaper.cn, ran several photos of two of the deceased soldiers – Chen Hongjun and Xiao Siyuan – from their days at Northwest Normal University and Henan Agricultural Vocational College.
Both universities announced on social media they would mark the deaths of their two former students by allowing teachers and students to pay tributes and carry out “mourning activities”.
The nationalistic tabloid, Global Times, published an editorial to give its view on why information about the PLA soldiers has been made public now – eight months after the clash.
“Back to the Galwan Valley clash last year, given the tense situation at that time, avoiding a comparison of casualties was more conducive to the stability of the border situation. Now that the round of border standoff has ended, we must make public the heroes’ deeds so that all Chinese people could admire and commemorate them to understand the weight of peace,” the Global Times editorial said.
“Before the Galwan Valley clash, China had not seen soldiers sacrifice in clashes with foreign troops for quite a long time. The sacrifice of young soldiers including those born after 1995 and 2000 has shocked the nation.”
The editorial also said that another reason for eventually releasing the information was to reveal the truth.
“India has been trumpeting its ‘victory’ in the border provocations against China to cater to and encourage surging domestic nationalism. The unveiled number of casualties from China has debunked the lies of India, making it hard for India, who suffered heavy losses in the Galwan Valley, to continue to fool the domestic public,” the editorial added.
Shanghai-based military expert, Ni Lexiong, said China did not release the PLA casualty statistics earlier because it did not want to provoke reactions.
“China is not prepared to expand the border conflict with India, and so it did not immediately report casualties in order to avoid provoking anger among the Chinese,” he said.
“Now that the two sides have reached an agreement on withdrawal and disengagement, the incident has been formally resolved. The Chinese side will be able to handle the casualties normally and it will not affect the settlement of the border conflict. This shows that China is rational and calm,” Ni added.