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Chinese netizens angry that India withdrew from Doklam without apology

Chinese social media users lashed out at their government on Tuesday for allowing India to withdraw its troops from Doklam near the Sikkim border without issuing an apology.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2017 16:45 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
India-China relations,Doklam standoff,Sikkim border
File photo from July 2006 shows a Chinese soldier (left) and an Indian soldier placing a barbed wire fence following a meeting of military representatives at the Nathu La border crossing in India's northeastern Sikkim state. India said on August 28, 2017 that troops were disengaging from a months-long stand-off with the Chinese military in the strategically important Doklam area. (AFP)

The “disengagement” of Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam evoked mixed responses from Chinese social media users, with many expressing surprise and shock that New Delhi had been let off without having to apologise for what Beijing had described as an “illegal trespass” near the Sikkim border.

Some users said the withdrawal of Indian troops without an apology meant that New Delhi “won” the standoff that began more than two months ago.

Users of Weibo, China’s version of Twitter and Facebook, questioned why their government allowed Indian troops to go back after staying on “Chinese territory” for so long.

On Monday, the Chinese government’s first statement on the resolution of the standoff - that it had made on-site checks to verify the withdrawal of Indian personnel and equipment from Doklam, or Donglang as it is known in China - was shared by many on Weibo and WeChat, the popular mobile phone app.

Though the end of the face-off wasn’t among the top topics on social media, thousands commented on it and shared related reports.

“India has been in China for two months without an apology and punishment. How can we be proud of this? I waited for the common people to love peace and (be) against war, but the result made us lose face,” said one user whose comment was widely shared.

“The Chinese people are demanding an apology from India! This (the standoff) must go on until India apologises,” was another user’s demand.

Yet another said: “No apology before the withdrawal is India’s win and everyone will feel it.”

The standoff began in mid-June when Indian troops acted in coordination with the Bhutan government to block the construction of a road by Chinese soldiers in Doklam, an area controlled by Beijing but claimed by Thimphu. The two sides agreed on disengagement on Monday and pulled out their troops from the area. Reports from Doklam suggested China would not go ahead with the construction of a road, the event which triggered the row.

For some Chinese social media users, the resolution showed India how “easy” it was to enter into Chinese territory.

“India: See, the invasion of Chinese territory is so simple and it has little consequence,” complained an angry Chinese netizen.

“Where is the lesson? Indian soldiers have been in the country illegally for more than two months without any loss,” asked another Chinese Weibo user.

“Was the withdrawal unconditional? It is a national concern if we have given up the right to repair the road. The focus should be on whether the withdrawal was unconditional,” said another user.

Such reactions from Chinese social media users isn’t surprising in view of the massive anti-India media campaign launched by China’s state media since the end of June.

The government and the official media flooded China’s social media – besides mainstream newspapers and news websites – with news of the standoff from the third week of June.

Government statements on the “illegal trespass” were widely publicised on social media, and the warnings issued by the government for Indian troops to withdraw or face the consequences were highlighted in a planned manner.

Official statements on the standoff were accompanied by new reports and videos of military exercises by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), close to the border with India. The videos showed PLA soldiers carrying out live fire drills and demonstrated how “combat ready” they were to take on “invading armies”.

The official Xinhua news agency even put out a video with strong racist overtones to push forward the anti-India tirade.

After this calculated tirade, it was not surprising that Chinese netizens were feeling just a little let down.

However, not all reactions to the end of the impasse were angry and annoyed. Some were happy that any kind of escalation had been avoided.

“I don’t want to be strong with the war. The only thing I can do is to believe in the country. At least now, I am happier than the people who are experiencing war,” said one user.

“It’s good that there isn’t a war which will hurt the common people, whether us or the Indians. Peace is a blessing,” said another Chinese netizen.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 16:05 IST