Times Now and Aaj Tak aired visuals of a Chinese Army burial ground for martyrs of the 1962 Indo-China war with a misleading claim that it shows the graves of soldiers killed in a clash with Indian troops in June 2020 at Galwan Valley.
BOOM found that the video aired by the news channels are from Kangxiwa cemetery built for soldiers who lost their lives in the 1962 Indo-China War with martyrs of the People's Liberation Army. The Kangxiwa War Memorial in Xinjiang province has over the years also been used for soldiers of the Chinese Army who died in the same Aksai Chin area.
Times Now and Aaj Tak aired the video claiming the graves seen in the video are of Chinese soldiers killed in Galwan without specifying that the cemetery is old and holds tombs for 1962 war martyrs and other soldiers too.
AAJ TAK STORY
On August 31, Aaj Tak in a show anchored by Rohit Sardana claiming it is an exclusive and "A Proof of Galwan". In the show, Sardana says, "Here is the proof of the clashes in Galwan which caused Chinese casualties. These photos are graves of the Galwan casualties. The channel then aired visuals of soldiers walking towards a memorial, an aerial view of graves and a Chinese soldier wiping a tombstone.
Sardana also tweeted the video with a caption in Hindi that said, "These are photos of soldiers killed in Galwan. Those who want to count, go ahead and do so. And don't ask for proof again and insult the bravery of Indian Army."
गलवान में मारे गए चीनी सैनिकों की क़ब्रों की तस्वीरें हैं. जिसको गिनना हो गिन ले. और दोबारा सुबूत माँग कर भारतीय सेना के शौर्य पर सवाल न उठाए. pic.twitter.com/DkcKUVnIP7— रोहित सरदाना (@sardanarohit) August 31, 2020
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(Original text in Hindi - गलवान में मारे गए चीनी सैनिकों की क़ब्रों की तस्वीरें हैं. जिसको गिनना हो गिन ले. और दोबारा सुबूत माँग कर भारतीय सेना के शौर्य पर सवाल न उठाए.)
Times Now carried images from the same Kangxiwa war memorial claiming that "India already had evidence of 35 casualties on the Chinese side, but these pictures now prove that there have been more than 35 deaths."
The channel which carried the images on its show and as a web story made a misleading claim that the images of the graves show "Proof of Chinese casualties"
#Breaking | 47 days later after the Galwan Valley clash, proof of PLA casualties is finally out. Pictures of graves of Chinese soldiers killed in the clash are going viral on social media. These pictures prove that our braves took down more than 35 Chinese soldiers. pic.twitter.com/rBRbrLdpEX— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) August 31, 2020
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BOOM found that the video aired by Aaj Tak, the images used by Times Now, and the viral photos of tombstones are from the same site - Kangxiwa war memorial in Xinjiang province.
We found official data as released by the PLA that said there were 107 graves in 2019 and we further found that a soldier who died in 2019 was buried at the same site, taking the official count to 108.
We analysed the video aired by Aaj Tak and found the same on Twitter with the logo of Chinese media outlet CCTV in the left corner. Using that as a cue we searched with Mandarin keywords and found the same video on BiliBili - a Chinese video-sharing site.
The video on Bilibili was uploaded on August 24, 2020, with the caption reading, "Say goodbye to brother! Frontier veterans sweep the graves of martyrs and comrades before retiring." The video which is 2.02 seconds long is part of a show by Chinese news outlets - CCTV called Defence Stories. The channel, CCTV, regularly does shows showing the day to day life of members of China's defence forces.
We then looked for the video on Chinese social media site Weibo and found a post by the official handle of the CCTV Military channel on August 24, 2020. The caption of the post describes how the border regiment of PLA has for years followed the tradition wherein soldiers due to retire visit the Kangxiwa memorial to pay their respects
We used Google Translate to translate the text in the video and found that it described how soldiers of the Chinese army who were about to retire were visiting the Kangxiwa Memorial to pay their respects to the veterans.
Some of the translated lines read, "For a long time, the border defense regiment of the Xinjiang Military Region has a tradition where they had to visit Kangxiwa Martyrs Cemetery Road before retiring."
The text further describes the Kangxiwa Memorial and says that there are 108 soldiers buried at the memorial. The soldier says, "Siwa Martyrs Cemetery is the highest cemetery for surviving soldiers. 108 soldiers who died from the country were buried. Looking at the snowy mountains in the distance, the veterans also thought of their comrades in arms."
Click here to watch the Weibo video
A comparison of the video by CCTV channel and the one used by Aaj Tak shows that it is the same. We also compared the Times Now video with the CCTV video and found that Times Now took frames from the video to falsely claim that it shows graves of Galwan victims.
The news channel also blurred out the logo of CCTV and the Chinese text on the video which explains that the soldiers are visiting the Kangxiwa Memorial.
What Is Kangxiwa War Memorial?
A search for Kangxiwa War Memorial on the Chinese search engine - Baidu showed a page with details about the Memorial, with reference to news articles. According to the pages, Kangxiwa memorial was built in the Xinjiang province as a tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the Sino-India war.
A reporter BOOM spoke to also confirmed the same and said, "The Kangxiwa War Memorial is located at a very high altitude and not easily accessible. The Memorial is not really a cemetery as it does not hold the remains of the soldiers and is just a place to mark the casualties of the war and remember the names of those who died. The place can be visited only with permission from armed forces and is mainly accessible only to soldiers."
The reporter added, "While the maximum number of tombs are of the casualties from the 1962 War, over the years soldiers posted at the border who die on duty, are also buried there. Hence in the video, we see the tombstone of a soldier who died in 2019."
TOTAL NUMBER OF GRAVES AT KANGXIWA
BOOM found that the total number of graves as seen in the video aired by CCTV and then carried by Aaj Tak and Times Now is 108. Here's how we counted the numbers:
We first geo located Kangxiwa War Memorial and found satellite images of the location as last seen on Feb 12, 2011
This image shows 105 graves, please note the four graves on the last row on the right side and one grave on the left (We will come back to this in sometime)
A search using specific keywords in Chinese led us to a site called - China Military Online a news site of the Chinese People's Liberation Army approved by the Central Military Commission. The site which solely publishes military and defence news republished a story carried by the People Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese army.
The article, a detailed report about the Kangxiwa Memorial says the memorial is located at Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, 72 kilometers southeast of the Sanli Barracks in Saitula Town, Pishan County.
This article published March 3, 2019, puts the number of graves at the cemetery to 107 (Read here). This was two more than the graves as seen in the satellite images.
With the number of graves are at 107 in March 2019, we moved to the recent video uploaded by CCTV on Weibo. In the CCTV show, one can see a PLA soldier kneeling down near a tombstone, wiping it clean and then spending a few minutes talking to it. The same video is also seen in the Aaj Tak video at the counter 1 minute 28 seconds and the counter 2 minute 27 seconds.
This scene was repeatedly shown in the show and the anchor also referred to it by saying it shows a fellow soldier crying over the graves of those who died in the Galwan clashes.
With the help of a reporter from China, we got the epitaph text on the tombstone translated and corroborated the same using the Google Translate app. We found that the tombstone is of a soldier who died in December 2019.
The soldier kneeling down was identified in the video as 'Sun Yuanhong' who was saying goodbye to his friend, a soldier Wei Zhengjie. The tombstone is of Zhengjie and the epitaph reads that he died in 2019 during a practice training drill and that he is buried at the War Memorial built for the 1962 Indo China war martyrs. In the video, the soldier seen talking to the tombstone says, "I am leaving now, not sure if I will come back again, we joined the army and came here together, it feels like yesterday, I miss you"
So according to images found by BOOM, the number of graves atleast till 2011 were 105 and then in 2019 there were reported to be 107 graves and with the addition of Zhengjie's tomb, who died in December 2019 -- the number stands to 108.
We further counted the difference in the number of graves towards the end in the video aired by CCTV and compared it to the satellite images of Kangxiwa and found that till the date of the shooting of the CCTV video the number of graves were 108.
Notice highlighted in red how there is one grave on the left side of the Feb 2011 Google Earth image which increases to two graves in the video aired by CCTV in August 2020. And on the right side of the Google earth image there four graves which increase to six graves in the August video. So that's an addition of a total of three graves taking the count from 105 as in the Google Earth image to 108.
PHOTO OF TOMBSTONE OF SOLDIER WHO DIED IN 2020
On Saturday, a photo started going viral showing a tombstone with Chinese characters on it which several news outlets published claiming it is a soldier who died in the Galwan attacks of June 2020. BOOM reached out to the reporter to help us translate the text on the tombstone.
We were informed that the tomb identifies the soldier as Chen Xiangrong and says he was born in December 2001 and died in June 2020. The tomb while not mentioning Galwan does say that the soldier died in a clash between India and China in June 2020.
We also noticed that the tombstones at the Kangxiwa War Memorial as seen in the videos mention (on the right side) that the soldiers are buried in a memorial built for casualties fo the 1962 war. This line is missing from the tombstone built for the soldier who died in June 2020 making it unclear where his tombstone is located.
Editor's Note : Following BOOM's story Aaj Tak issued a clarification on Facebook and expressed regret. The channel said, "It inadvertently aired visuals of a Chinese army burial ground for martyrs of the Indo-China war of 1962 showing them as graves of soldiers killed in a clash with Indian troops in June 2020 at Galwan Valley. The error is deeply regretted."
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