China says four of its soldiers died in Galwan clash

They have been recognised by the country for defending national sovereignty.

China has for the first time recognised four soldiers who died in the June 15 clash in Galwan valley, breaking its silence over the number of casualties suffered by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Twenty Indian soldiers died in the clash, which marked the worst violence on the border since 1967.

The PLA Daily on Friday said “five Chinese frontier officers and soldiers stationed in the Karakoram Mountains have been recognised by the Central Military Commission of China for defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity”, one of whom was injured.

“Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong and Xiao Siyuan fought to the last minute and sacrificed their lives,” the report said and quoted the Global Times. “Wang Zhuoran, a fellow soldier, also gave his life to rescue his comrades when crossing the river to support the others.”

The regimental commander from the PLA Xinjiang Military Command, Qi Fabao, was also recognised “and given the title of “hero regimental commander for defending the border”. The report said he had sustained “a serious head injury”. A first-class merit was awarded to Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran.

The Global Times noted “this is the first time China has unveiled casualties and details of these officers and soldiers”.

There have been isolated calls on Chinese social media to recognise those lost in Galwan, but no major discussion on the PLA’s casualties, a sensitive topic that China’s state-controlled media has studiously avoided. In August, a leaked photo circulated on the Chinese social media app, WeChat, showed a grave of a PLA soldier named Chen Xiangrong, but it was not confirmed by the authorities. This was among the names announced on Friday.

Sensitive issue

In June, a source close to the PLA told the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post that Beijing was “very sensitive” about military casualties, saying all numbers had to be approved by President Xi Jinping, who heads the Central Military Commission, before being released.”

The PLA commendation also presented the Chinese account of the June 15 clash, which the Global Times noted did not refer to India but a “foreign military”, a decision, it said, was to avoid “inciting sentiments of the public against the background of the current disengagement of troops of China and India along the border areas.”

The clash occurred during an attempt by both sides to verify a de-escalation process that was under way in the Galwan Valley, a site of tension since April 2020.

“Since April 2020, relevant foreign military violated the previous agreement… they trespassed the border line to build roads and bridges and intentionally incited troubles, changing the status quo along the border… they even violently attacked Chinese soldiers that were sent for communication,” the report claimed. “When facing the Indian military’s trespassing and provocations in May 2020, Chen Xiangrong and other Chinese soldiers fought back and forced them to return. ‘When facing enemies that outnumbered us, none of us flinched. Amid their stone attacks, we drove them away,’ Chen wrote in his diary,” the report said.

The PLA Daily report suggested India had suffered a higher number of casualties. Qian Feng, director of the research department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times, “China unveiled the details of the incident to refute previous disinformation that stated China suffered greater casualties than India or China incited the incident.”

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