A Chinese social media influencer with millions of followers was recently arrested by Chinese authorities for questioning the Chinese soldiers’ death toll in the Sino-India border conflict in 2020. He was forced to make a “confession” on China’s state-run national TV.
On Mar. 1, the Nanjing Procuratorate announced on its official social media WeChat account that it approved the arrest of Qiu Ziming, the owner of the account named “Spicy pen small ball” on the Chinese social media Weibo, for “belittling and ridiculing the heroes and martyrs defending the border” and “causing a negative social impact.”
Qiu was detained by local police on Feb. 20.
Also on Mar. 1, the Supreme Procuratorate of China posted Qiu’s “confession” footage on its official media Procuratorate Daily. State-run CCTV also broadcasted Qiu’s one-minute “confession” that evening.
In the video, Qiu was wearing prisoner’s clothes. He called his behavior “annihilating conscience” and said he felt “very regretful” for questioning the official death toll of Chinese soldiers from the Sino-India border clash.
The worst conflict in 45 years broke out between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Galwan Valley, Ladakh region in the Himalayas in June 2020. At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the clash. Last month, the Chinese regime announced that “4 soldiers died and 1 regiment commander was seriously injured” in the conflict.
Chinese netizens expressed skepticism about the death toll and the delay in releasing the information. A number of netizens have been arrested for questioning the official numbers on social media.
Qiu, who has more than 2.4 million followers, published two posts. Qiu expressed sarcasm: “Only the highest rank Chinese official there—the regimental commander has survived. … Anyway, we won.”
Qiu’s other post raised suspicion about the official death toll: “Look at it carefully, and the four died all because of going there to ‘rescue.’ Even the people who went to rescue all died. Then the people who needed rescue died. It means that the four people were not the only ones killed in the battle. This is also the reason why India dared to release the number and names of the dead the first time. In India’s view, they won with less casualties.”
Yao Cheng, a former Chinese naval officer, told Chinese-language radio Sound of Hope on Feb. 23 that his China information channels counted the tombs of the dead soldiers and reported to him that more than 40 Chinese soldiers had died in the clash.
“Some [of my information channels] told me that the death toll is 42. I think this number is accurate,” Yao said.
According to Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Wikipedia, Qiu, 39, resides in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. He majored in journalism and has a master’s degree in law from the Political Department of Nanjing University. He once worked in the local Chinese media Jinling Evening News and Economic Observer as an investigative reporter.
At least six netizens in Beijing, Hebei, Guizhou, Guangdong, Sichuan, and Jiangsu have been arrested for questioning the official data of Chinese casualties in the border conflict, according to a report by Voice of America.
A 19-year-old netizen named Wang Jingyu from Chongqing city has become a fugitive, as the Chinese regime issued a warrant for him online for questioning the official numbers of Chinese soldier deaths.
Wang is currently living in Europe, but his parents who are currently living in China have been arrested and assaulted in an effort to stop him from speaking to the media.
Forced TV Confession
“Forced confessions on TV” is a unique tactic of the Chinese communist regime.
It is a practice reminiscent of the many forced, public confessions by so-called “enemies of the state” in the era of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which was a violent and tumultuous political movement launched by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Mao Zedong. Tens of millions of people in China were persecuted to death at that time.
In more recent years, people who are detained by the regime are forced to “admit their guilt” on TV. It causes public humiliation for the so-called “criminal” and it deters others. It violates basic human rights, despite the CCP’s claim that China has a rule of law society.
“Unfairly receiving accusations with no chance of defending themselves—this is not new, but it’s an adaptation to new technology that now makes it possible for everybody to see this,” Jerome Cohen, a professor of law and an expert in Chinese law at New York University, told CNN in 2016.
The victims of China’s forced TV confessions include China’s human rights lawyers, Hong Kong citizen Simon Cheng who worked for the British consulate in Hong Kong, British private investigator Peter Humphrey and his American wife Yu Yingzeng, and others.
Simon Cheng disappeared on August 8, 2019. He later revealed that he was detained by the CCP for 15 days and tortured. He said he was forced to read a script given to him in front of a camera as his confession.
Both Humphrey and Cheng filed a complaint with the UK’s TV-regulator Ofcom against the Chinese regime’s English language mouthpiece CGTN for airing their forced TV confessions in the UK. Their complaints were one of the factors that resulted in the suspension of CGTN’s broadcasting license in the UK.
Nicole Hao contributed to this report.