Internet vlogger “Spicy Pen” sentenced to eight months in jail for his words

Chinese internet vlogger “Spicy Pen”, who once had 2.5 million followers on Weibo, was sentenced to eight months in prison on Tuesday (June 1) by a court in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, on charges of “defaming and degrading the reputation of heroes and martyrs. He became the first person to be sentenced to prison on the charge of “insulting and defaming heroes and martyrs” since the adoption of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs in 2018 and the new charge of “insulting and defaming heroes and martyrs” added to the Criminal Law Amendment (XI), which took effect on March 1 this year.

“Qiu Ziming was born in 1982 in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and then earned a master’s degree in law from Nanjing University’s political science department. Qiu worked for the Jinling Evening News and the Economic Observer as an investigative reporter.

The standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in the Garhwan Valley area of the border began in May last year, followed by a serious physical clash on June 15, in which soldiers from both sides used fists, kicks, sticks and stones in a major fight that resulted in serious casualties. Immediately after the incident, the Indian government announced that at least 20 Indian soldiers had died of their injuries, but the Chinese side has not announced the casualties of the PLA, thus triggering various speculations.

In February, the Chinese side honored the casualties of the conflict in the Garhwan Valley, and only then did it reveal the number of PLA officers and soldiers killed and seriously wounded in that conflict, namely four. The Chinese government explained at the time that the main reason for waiting more than six months to announce the casualties was that it did not want to add fuel to the fire at a time of tension along the Sino-Indian border. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said at the time that “after the conflict, the Chinese side maintained a high degree of restraint in order to maintain the overall situation of relations between the two countries and the two militaries and to promote the cooling down of the situation, reflecting China’s temperament as a responsible power to take charge”.

But the Chinese side waited eight months after the conflict before announcing the number of casualties, and the low number of casualties announced caused many people to question. Qiu Ziming wrote on Sina Weibo at the time, “The biggest officer, the chief survived, and this chief’s personality must be ‘flying general + off the rabbit + divine machine + blood road + strong luck’.” He also said, “the four who died were for the rescue and merit, even the ones who went to the rescue were sacrificed, so there must have been no rescue ah, indicating that there were not only four people killed in action”. According to Qiu Ziming, the number of Chinese soldiers killed in that conflict ranged from 60 to 79.

In its verdict, the Nanjing court accused Qiu Ziming, 38, of “slandering the reputation of heroes and martyrs” and of “confessing” to the crimes he committed. On February 20 this year, the Nanjing police issued a notice on the official microblogging site, saying that the Nanjing police, based on reports from the public, had arrested “Spicy Pen Small Ball” on the night of February 19 for posting “illegal comments”. The arrest was made on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.

China’s Global Times reported that Qiu Ziming received a light sentence of eight months in prison because he showed remorse for his crime. The maximum penalty is three years in prison for “insulting and defaming heroes and martyrs,” a new charge under Amendment 11 of the Criminal Law. According to the Global Times, Qiu Ziming must also publicly apologize for his crimes in the media and on “major domestic websites. On March 1 of this year, Beijing’s China Central Television (CCTV) already broadcast Qiu Ziming’s admission of guilt to the nation during evening primetime.