2020 Galwan Valley clash: Injured PLA commander, Olympic torch bearer, now delegate to CPC congress
Qi Fabao, who was the PLA’s Xinjiang military region commander during the clash on June 15, 2020, was named among 304 delegates from the PLA and People’s Armed Police Force for the upcoming congress, which is expected to be held either at the end of October or early November
BEIJING: A Chinese military commander injured in the Galwan Valley clash with Indian troops in 2020, has been elected as a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) delegate to the upcoming twice-a-decade Communist of China (CPC) national congress to be held later this year.
Qi Fabao, who was the PLA’s Xinjiang military region commander during the clash on June 15, 2020, was named among 304 delegates from the PLA and People’s Armed Police Force for the upcoming congress, which is expected to be held either at the end of October or early November.
Only 2,300 delegates from over 95 million CPC members will attend the congress, a reshuffle of the top leadership where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third term.
The CPC conclave will be the highest-profile CPC meet in several decades and will be globally tracked.
The PLA delegates were chosen from “25 electoral units” of the two forces.
The process of being nominated as a delegate to the congress remains shrouded in mystery - more so for the PLA -- but the broad criteria shared publicly is lofty.
Delegates to the congress need to be “exemplary” members of the CPC and meet stringent criteria, according to the official news agency, Xinhua.
“Political integrity is put first in the assessment. According to the party leadership, the candidates should first and foremost have solid ideals and convictions and high moral standards,” the Xinhua reported earlier this year.
In Qi’s case, the rare honour is likely the CPC leadership’s way of portraying him as a “hero” to the people even as India and China remain locked in the dragging border tension in eastern Ladakh since 2020.
New Delhi has squarely blamed Beijing and the PLA for the marked deterioration in ties, holding them responsible for trying to change the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
Qi suffered head injuries during the clash with Indian soldiers, and later received the title of “hero regiment commander for defending the border” from the government.
His name was revealed along with the names of the four Chinese soldiers who died at Galwan Valley only in February, 2021, several months after the clash; 20 Indian soldiers died in the clash.
Calling it a “regrettable” decision, India had stayed away from the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February this year after Qi was nominated as an Olympic torchbearer.
“It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like (the) Olympics,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry had then said.
The head of India’s embassy in Beijing would not attend the opening or closing ceremonies following the decision, he added.
Defending the decision, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had said: “I want to stress that the torch bearers of the Beijing Winter Olympics are broadly representative and they meet relevant standards.”
“We hope relevant sides can view it in an objective and rational light,” he had said.
Qi, a colonel, is in senior company among the 304 delegates.
Six leaders of the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s top military organ and headed by Xi, have been selected as delegates including Xu Qiliang and Zhang Youxia, both vice chairpersons; four others include state councillor and defence minister Wei Fenghe besides Li Zuocheng, Miao Hua, and Zhang Shengmin.
Lin Xiangyang, commander of the PLA’s eastern theatre, - which led China’s show of military might against Taiwan this month - is part of the list as well.
Interestingly, the political commissars of the Xinjiang military district and the Tibet military district - both border India - Yang Cheng and Yin Hongxing were not the list of delegates
Among notable inclusions in the list of PLA delegates is China’s first woman astronaut Wang Yaping, who was a transport aircraft pilot PLA Air Force.
Three Tibetan PLA personnel along with two from the Muslim Uighur community were included in the list.
Only 27 among the 304 PLA delegates are women.