Chinese state media released a video over the weekend purporting to depict fighting between Chinese and Indian border troops in the Western Himalayas’ Galwan Valley in June 2020.
At least four Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers died in the clash according to the video, marking the first time China’s military has publicly admitted to the deaths. Beijing had previously confirmed only that at least one Chinese PLA soldier died in the border brawl, which also killed at least 20 Indian troops.
Indian media, citing government sources, reported at the time as many as 40 Chinese soldiers died in the brawl, over twice the number the Indian military lost.
China’s Central Military Commission issued commendations to the fallen PLA servicemen “for their role in bravely fighting back hostilities provoked by foreign forces at the Galwan Valley,” a PLA newspaper reported on February 19, according to China’s official state press agency, Xinhua.
“The title of ‘border-defending hero’ was conferred to [PLA] Battalion Commander Chen Hongjun posthumously, while Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran received first-class merit. They all died in a clash with trespassing foreign military personnel wielding steel tubes, cudgels and stones last June,” Xinhua relayed.
“Qi Fabao, who was seriously injured in the skirmish, received the title of ‘hero regiment commander for defending the border,'” according to the report.
“[T]he Indian side has repeatedly sensationalized and hyped up this incident with the casualties and distorted the truth to mislead the international public opinion,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference on February 19. “Now, as the PLA Daily reveals the truth on the matter, people will have a better understanding of what really happened and who is right and who is wrong.”
China and India share an unmarked border in the Western Himalayas; a bilateral agreement prevented either side from using firearms along the boundary meaning the June 2020 border clash was largely fought hand-to-hand. The skirmish was the deadliest military dispute between India and China since the two sides fought a border war in 1962. India revoked limits on the use of firearms on the border following the incident.
India and China accused each other of provoking the June 2020 skirmish both on the day of the clash, June 15, and in the preceding weeks. Both sides alleged that the other had recently violated the border’s integrity through increasing intrusions into the other’s territory in the months leading up to the clash.
A voiceover in the February 19 PLA propaganda video claims that Indian border forces “frequently crossed the borderline to build bridges and roads in an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo of the border control, escalating tensions in the area” starting in April 2020, alleged actions India previously claimed China had committed during the same time frame.
“They are setting up a tent there and now they are bringing in another one,” a Chinese PLA voice-over in the video claims, with the accompanying footage purporting to show the alleged border violation by India.
“In June 2020, the foreign military force blatantly violated the consensus reached between the two sides and crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) [the official name for the India-China border] in provocation,” the narrator continues, over footage of what appears to be dozens of Indian troops crossing a river holding shields with the word “Police” written across them in one hand and batons in the other.