Beijing: The Chinese government is pressuring the families of soldiers who died in a violent border clash with India in June not to conduct burials and in-person funeral ceremonies in an attempt to cover up an episode that Beijing appears to consider a blunder, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment.
The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs has told families of those who died in the Galwan Valley clash that they must forgo traditional burial ceremonies and cremate the soldiers’ remains and that any funeral services should be conducted remotely, not in person, a source familiar with the assessment tells U.S. News. Though the government has used the threat posed by the spread of the coronavirus as a pretext, the assessment concludes that the new rules are a part of a deliberate effort by Beijing to undermine public awareness and erase any enduring reminders of the violent clash.
China reportedly fears that images of gravestones for its fallen soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, could further stoke those sentiments if spread on Chinese or international social media.
“The reality is they don’t want to create martyr soldiers,” sources were quoted as saying by US News. “So they have banned functions where friends and families can pay their respects for the PLA deceased.”
But concern among Chinese citizens has apparently already spread. The Guardian reported in late June, citing anonymous intelligence officials, that people using Chinese social media were sharing pictures of funeral processions for Indian troops and wondering why their countrymen didn’t receive similar honors.
China has encouraged the practice of cremations and no ceremonies during the pandemic for public health reasons. The intelligence assessment indicates those concerns are separate from Beijing’s interest in downplaying the soldiers’ deaths.
China still has not confirmed how many of its soldiers died as a result of the clash, though U.S. News previously reported that American intelligence believes 35 perished.