Qiu accused of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ for poking fun at commander and questioning death toll. Nanjing police say they acted after reports from the public

Police in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing have detained a popular blogger over social media posts that authorities say demeaned military casualties of a border clash with India. The Nanjing Bureau of Public Security said on Saturday that Qiu Ziming, 38, was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a vague crime that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Qiu, a former reporter with the weekly Economic Observer, had 2.5 million followers on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo when he published two posts on Friday that suggested a commander survived the clashes because he was the highest ranking officer there.

He also suggested that more Chinese soldiers might have been killed in the conflict that those disclosed by the authorities.

On Friday, the Chinese military ended its months-long silence to say that four soldiers – Chen Hongjun, 33, Xiao Siyuan, 24, Wang Zhuoran, 24 and Chen Xiangrong, 18 – were killed in the conflict in the Galwan Valley in June. Their commanding officer Qi Fabao, 41, was badly wounded.

State media also released footage of the clash showing Qi walking with open arms towards Indian troops and trying to stop them.

At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in the clash, the worst border conflict between China and India in decades. Both countries increased military deployment in the area after the conflict and have only recently begun to pull back their troops.

Qiu’s posts quickly attracted attention of the Communist Youth League’s Central Committee, which made a terse disapproving comment on Friday. A day later, Weibo announced that Qiu’s two accounts had been closed.

Nanjing police said Qiu was detained after reports from the public about remarks that “maliciously distorted facts, slandered the five heroic soldiers who defended the country’s borders, and had an extremely bad social influence”.

Qiu was detained on Friday night and confessed to the illegal deeds, police said.

In a commentary on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua accused Qiu of “damaging the reputation of heroes, hurting nationalistic feelings and poisoning patriotic hearts” with his sensational posts.

Qiu’s posts were a contrast to the tide of poems and tributes unleashed online since the identification of the soldiers on Friday.

“It is the age of graduating from high school, playing basketball in the sun, adoring a girl in his heart, missing parents and applying for a driver’s licence,” one commenter said in response to an image of a smiling 18-year-old Chen. “It’s the age when life just starts.”

Another said: “I am a mother. I can’t help crying looking at the young face. This child is a hero.”

Amid the collective outpouring, the hashtag “they died for me” became one of the top trending topics on Weibo on Saturday.

One Weibo user’s short poem was liked 1.3 million times.

“The dusk approached as I ate rice and drank Coke, wondering why these strong soldiers died,” the user wrote.

“I woke up in the middle of the night, suddenly realising they died for me.”