The Beijing Winter Olympics has drawn a frosty reception in India, as a Chinese soldier involved in the deadly Himalayan skirmish at Galwan Valley in May 2020 participated in the traditional torch relay. A regiment commander for the People’s Liberation Army, Qi Fabao was among the troops present in 2020 during the high-altitude clash.
Troops fought a hand-to-hand battle that left at least 20 Indians and four Chinese soldiers dead, though it took Beijing eight months to acknowledge the casualties on its own side.
Qi, the regimental commander from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Xinjiang military command, who had suffered a serious head injury during the Galwan Valley border skirmish on 15 June 2020, took the flame from Wang Meng, China’s four-time Olympic short track speed skating champion, at Winter Olympic Park on Wednesday, the Communist Party of China mouthpiece Global Times reported. Qi was among the Games’ 1,200 torchbearers.
“China’s aggressive information warfare continues,” Indian journalist Abhishek Bhalla wrote on Twitter.
“They took a while to announce their dead but now Qi Fabao… is a torchbearer.”
China and India deployed tens of thousands of extra troops into and around the Galwan Valley after the 2020 clash. High-level talks late last year failed to ease tensions in the region and Indian news website The Wire said Qi’s inclusion in the torch relay was “another not-so-good sign of detente” with China.
Qi appeared on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in December and said he was “ready to return to the battlefield and fight again”.
The Winter Olympics open on Friday but have been dogged by politics and Covid-19 fears.
The United States and several other nations are staging a diplomatic boycott of the Games over human rights concerns relating to the treatment of Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang.
Skier Arif Mohammad Khan is India’s lone entry in the Winter Games, with spectators limited by Covid-19 protocols.
The eastern Ladakh border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on 5 May 2020, following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas. While twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the clash, China did not put out its numbers. However, Russian news agency TASS reported that 45 Chinese soldiers died in the standoff.
The Indian estimate of the toll on China in the skirmish was 25–40 killed and more than 60 casualties.