They died for the motherland|Tsang Chi-ho

Published (HKT): 2021.02.24 10:05

Eight months ago, serious conflicts broke out between Chinese and Indian soldiers on the Himalayan border of China and India. Cold weapon made from iron rods studded with nails were used in the bloody brawl. India was quick to announce that 20 soldiers died in the conflicts, but China has been silent on its casualty figure.

Did all the Chinese soldiers retreat without anyone getting injured? Or did many die and China could not bring itself to reveal the death toll?

All this has been top secret.

Global Times editor Hu Xijin had offered an explanation on behalf of China, saying Beijing did not reveal the death toll on the Chinese side because it was being sincere and considerate and did not want to hit a nerve in India.

So, he was implying that China suffered minor casualties and if it released the figures, it would be rubbing salt in the wound of India and insulting it.

However, there was a twist later. According to foreign reports, the number of casualties of the People’s Liberation Army was twice that of India. It was said that 45 Chinese soldiers died. Some of these “rumors” were reported by Russia, a buddy of China who cannot possibly smear China. Which is why these reports have taken many by surprise, raising doubts that China did not reveal the number of casualties not because it was being considerate but for fear of upsetting its own people.

Eventually, China could stay silent no more. On February 19, eight months after the conflict, it suddenly announced that four Chinese soldiers were sacrificed in the border dispute and one was seriously injured. In other words, the official death toll was four, which is much lower than the Indian side. So, our side was far stronger than India!

But are these figures correct? A netizen in China has raised doubts, suggesting that the four were sacrificed when they tried to rescue their colleagues, and that if the soldiers who tried to save others ended up dying, other soldiers must have been in a more perilous situation during the brawl. The netizen also suggested that more than four soldiers died.

This person was soon identified and arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”. “Defaming the heroes is tantamount to opposing the motherland and making enemies of the people,” it was said.

Is the truth that cannot be doubted still the truth? I doubt.

The remaining question is why the soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the country could not be identified, remembered and praised during the eight-month vacuum period? Was that because China had to take care of the feelings of the foreign troops and so the lives of its own soldiers had to be sacrificed silently? If the authorities do not take the initiative to mention the four martyrs, could their parents tell others the glorious achievement of their sons? If they couldn’t, well, that really was the ultimate form of sacrificing for the motherland.

(Tsang Chi-ho, columnist)

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