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“Remember Their Faces”: An Online Tribute to the Chinese Soldiers Killed in Border Clash with India

“My love is crystal clear, it is only for China” – quotes and images; this is how the PLA soldiers are remembered on Weibo.

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Quotes, photos, music, and posters; this is how the four Chinese soldiers killed at the Galwan Valley clash are being remembered on Chinese social media.

In June of 2020, four Chinese soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were killed during a bloody border clash with Indian troops. The battle in the Galwan River Valley, in the disputed frontier region of Ladakh, was the deadliest border clash between the two countries in four decades.

News of the Chinese casualties was not released until late February of this year. Directly after the clash last year, Indian authorities said 20 of its troops had been killed. After the clash, a lot of fake news about the incident was circulating online.

That allegedly also played a role in why details about the deaths were revealed now, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin (华春莹) stating that the truth about the incident was “distorted and misled international public opinion.” She also said that “China’s disclosure of the truth about the border confrontation in June 2020 helps people understand the facts and show respect for the martyrs.”

Hua suggested that China initially did not report on the news to promote the “cooling and relaxation of the situation.” According to Foreign Policy, it is rare for the People’s Liberation Army to admit its casualties.

The four Chinese soldiers who were killed on June 15 of 2020 are Chen Hongjun (陈红军), 33, Xiao Siyuan (肖思远), 24, Wang Zhuoran (王焯冉), 24 and Chen Xiangrong (陈祥榕), 18.

Their commanding officer Qi Fabiao (祁发宝), 41, was badly injured during the clash. The four killed soldiers were posthumously awarded honorary and first-class merit citations. The injured regimental commander was also conferred with an honorary title.

On social media platform Weibo, the hashtag “Four PLA Soldiers Died in China-India Border Clashes” (#4名解放军官兵在中印边境冲突中牺牲#) had received 1,2 billion views by early March. Another hashtag, ‘The Central Military Commission Honors the Five Heroic Officers and Soldiers Guarding the Borders’ (#中央军委表彰5名卫国戍边英雄官兵#) received 250 million views on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlets made noteworthy efforts to shape the ways in which the soldiers are to be remembered, merging the political and the personal, and praising their patriotic commitment. Various official media accounts such as CCTV and People’s Daily have posted several images on social media to pay respect to the officers and soldiers, including the images below, using the phrases “The place where I stand is China” (“我站立的地方是中国”) and “I will defend the motherland with my life” (“我的祖国,我用生命捍卫守护”).

The phrase “We can’t lose an inch of our motherland” (#祖国山河一寸不能丢#) was also used in posts dedicated to the remembrance of the killed soldiers.

People’s Daily also published a video paying tribute to the soldiers along with the text “Please remember their faces” (“请记住他们的面孔”). The song “China Is Where I Stand” accompanies the images and footage of PLA soldiers in the video.

China Daily also published the quotes of the honored soldiers.

They are the following:

Qi Fabao: “Not everyone can understand my choice, but I have no regrets.”(”不是所有人都能理解我的选择,但我却无怨无悔”).

According to Chinese media reports, Colonel Qi was the first one during the border clash who went forward along with just a few other soldiers and officers to negotiate with the Indian troops. He supposedly approached them with open arms when he was met with violence and was attacked with steel pipes and stones. He suffered serious injuries to the head.

Chen Hongjun: “No matter what post I hold, I will contribute my utmost.”(”党把自己放在什么岗位上,就要在什么岗位上建功立业”.

As a battalion commander, Chen allegedly immediately came to the rescue when he saw Qi was being attacked, bringing other soldiers into what is described as a “rain of stones.” Chen leaves behind his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time.

Chen Xiangrong: “My love is crystal clear, it is only for China.”(”清澈的爱,只为中国”). 

According to Chinese media reports on this confrontation, Chen Xiangrong rushed to the front and used his body as a shield to protect his comrades behind him. He was only 18 when he died.

Xiao Siyuan: “We are the boundary markers of our country. Every inch of soil under our feet is part of the motherland.” (“我们就是祖国的界碑,脚下的每一寸土地都是祖国的领土”). 

Xiao reportedly also used his body to protect his comrades from stones, sticks, and pipes. He held a photo in his wallet of his girlfriend, with whom he was preparing to get married.

Wang Zhuoran: “Mum and dad, I may not be there until the end, but if there is an afterlife, I will still be a filial child and care for you well.” (“爸妈,儿子不孝,可能没法给你们养老送终了。如果有来生,我一定还给你们当儿子,好好报答你们.”)

Wang reportedly drowned while crossing a river to rescue his comrades.

 

After the details of these soldiers were released, many netizens on Weibo expressed their gratitude to them and praised the men.

The battalion commander saved the regimental commander, the soldier saved the battalion commander, and the squad leader saved the soldiers. I pay my utmost tributes to you heroes!”

“Chen Xangrong, he is only an 18-year-old kid! I really don’t want to call him a martyr. So heartbreaking!”

“Remember their names: Qi Fabao, Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran! Salute!”

While hundreds of comments and posts on Chinese social media remember the soldiers, the ways in which they are remembered and the border clash is recounted remains a sensitive issue.

It has been reported that former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, have been detained for “insulting” the Chinese soldiers under a law against “defaming heroes.” Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his (now-deleted) Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the border clash. News of his arrest received over 460 million views on the hashtag page (#辣笔小球被批捕#).

By early March, video footage came out showing a detained Qiu expressing remorse over his comments.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, the tribute to the PLA soldiers continues: “Thank you to our heroes,” hundreds of commenters write: “We pay our respects to all those soldiers who are guarding the frontier!”

 
By Vivian Wang and Manya Koetse

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Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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China Media

Dutch Olympic Committee Warns Athletes Not To Bring Phones to China, Hu Xijin: “They’ve Watched Too Many Movies”

“These people are participating in the Winter Olympics as if they’re entering a cave with wolves and tigers.”

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News about Dutch Olympic athletes being advised by the country’s Olympic Committee not to bring their own smartphone or laptops to the Winter Olympics in China has become a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media.

On January 11, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported that NOCNSF, the umbrella organisation for sports in the Netherlands, issued a warning to partipating Dutch athletes that they should not bring their personal smartphones, tablets, or laptops with them to the Beijing Olympics to avoid Chinese espionage.

NOCNSF spokesman Geert Slot said cybersecurity was part of the risk assessment made but declined to further comment on specific measures. In the article, the advice is described as a “precautionary move” related to concerns over potential cybersecurity safety issues in China.

The Dutch CEO of security company Zerocopter, Erik Ploegmakers, calls the move a “very wise” one, referring to the difficulties of using a VPN within China and mentioning how all online traffic would flow via Chinese internet infrastructure, saying that “China is able to view and manipulate all internet traffic, ‘so you basically carry your past information with you,’ including old messages, training schedules, medical data, contact details, and photos.”

On Chinese social media site Weibo, Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) commented on the Dutch ‘precautions.’ Until recently, Hu was also the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, and he has over 24 million followers on his Weibo account. He writes:

According to Dutch media reports, the Dutch Olympic Committee has called on Dutch athletes participating in next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing to leave their mobile phones and laptops at home to avoid having their personal information intercepted by Chinese surveillance systems. Last month, the Australian newsgroup quoted a Canberra security expert as saying foreign athletes’ movements and communication in China would all be monitored around the clock.

This cracks me up. These people are participating in the Winter Olympics as if they’re entering a cave with wolves and tigers. They’ve watched too many movies. Is this is how they look at China, which the IOC entrusted to serve athletes from all around the world? They must think they’re all that. Athletes are just common people once they’re off the field, what kind of intelligence value do they have? Even if a western athlete wanted to ‘defect’ and would shout out “I have information for you!”, the Chinese would probably still ask them to leave.

This entire issue reflects the degree to which Western public opinion has demonized China. It has eroded people’s common sense. How can China have the manpower and resources to build such a gigantic surveillance system? To do what? Western people are looking at China through an American lens. The Winter Olympics are mirroring the ghostly appearance of some Western extremist powers.

Ordinary Chinese people have a good impression of the Netherlands and welcome Dutch athletes to Beijing. The extremists should stop pouring cold water over the warm mutual friendship between the Dutch and Chinese people.

Hu’s post received over 7000 likes and hundreds of comments.

“Do people from around the world think we’re like North Korea or something?” one person responded. Another commenter wrote: “They’d better not come. All of our snowflakes are equipped with small 5G chips, they will be monitored as long as they participate, it’s mainly to see if they’ll pick up things to eat from the floor, to see what they do when it rains, and to check if their urine and stool is showing any irregularities and stuff.”

In other Weibo posts, users said: “I wonder what the Dutch and the Belgian people have to hide?”

The Belgian Interfederal Olympic Committee has also recommended that all Belgian athletes traveling to the Beijing Olympics leave personal laptops and smartphones at home.

The nationalistic blogger GuyanMuchan (@孤烟暮蝉), who has over 6 million Weibo fans, also responded to the issue, writing: “Ridiculous, this is just shameless. As an athlete, what kind of classified information do you have that China would steal from you? Are you all spies with a second identity?”

This is not the first time Dutch people are advised not to bring their regular smartphones or laptops with them to China. In 2018, before a Cabinet delegation went on a trade mission to China, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs also advised travelers to only bring devices without personal data to China. The same advice was also issued for those traveling to Russia, Iran, or Turkey.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Will Weibo Become 30% State-Media Owned?

Alibaba is allegedly ready to give up its Weibo shares to SMG.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is preparing to sell its 30% stake in social media platform Weibo. According to people familiar with the matter, Alibaba is negotiating with the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

News about Alibaba planning to sell all of its Weibo shares has triggered some online discussions on the Chinese social media platform. Bloomberg was the first to report that the Chinese e-commerce and IT enterprise is talking to the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to sell all of its 30% stake in Weibo.

According to Bloomberg, the move relates to regulators wanting to curb the influence of Chinese tech giants in the media sphere. The Bloomberg article claims that SMG, as one of China’s largest state-owned media and cultural conglomerates, stands a higher chance of gaining the approval of Chinese authorities than a private acquirer.

SMG is a large state-owned enterprise with over a dozen TV and radio stations, many newspapers and magazines, various drama & film production and distribution businesses, and more. The company has a major media influence, not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.

According to Weibo’s 2020 annual reports, New Wave held a 45% stake in Weibo, followed by Alibaba with its 30%. New Wave is the holding company by Weibo chairman Charles Chao.

“Weibo will change into another channel for SMG,” some Weibo users predict, with others also sharing their fear that Weibo would become more and more like a platform for official media (“微博现在越来越官方化”).

“This would be a big milestone in the crumbling of Alibaba’s media empire,” another commenter wrote. Some wonder if the developments have more to do with Weibo as a platform, or with Alibaba and its media influence.

In March of 2021, the Wall Street Journal already reported that the Chinese government asked the Alibaba Group to dispose of its media assets due to concerns over the company’s influence in the sensitive media sphere.

“When Alibaba exits and state-owned capital enters, Weibo is expected to magnificently transform into a ‘state-owned enterprise’,” another Weibo user wrote.

Although some commenters worry that Weibo will change for the worse and that there will be more censorship, others see a sunnier future for the social media platform: “It would be good for Weibo to be ‘state-owned’ so that it won’t be controlled by capital to influence public opinion anymore.”

Chinese tech site 36kr also reported about the issue on January 1st, but neither Weibo nor Alibaba or SGM have officially responded yet.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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