The Galwan Valley is in the eastern part of the Kashmir region, in the Western Himalayas, on the loosely-defined border between India and China.
Following the 2020 battle, which was fought in hand-to-hand combat in sub-zero temperatures in the night of June 15-16, India confirmed 20 of its soldiers had died.
China has repeatedly refused to disclose its total casualties. However in February last year, eight months after the deadly clash, Beijing announced post-humous medals had been awarded to four of its soldiers who died.
However evidence provided by a group of social media researchers, which The Klaxon has independently built on, appears to support claims that China’s casualties extended well beyond the four soldiers named by Beijing.
It also shows extreme lengths Beijing has gone to in order to silence discussion about the battle – in particular, discussion about the true number Chinese casualties.
Of the four soldiers China has confirmed died, only one – Junior Sergeant Wang Zhuoran – is reported as having drowned. The other three, PLA Battalion Commander Major Chen Hongjun, Private Chen Xiangrong and Junior Sergeant Xiao Siyuan, were killed by Indian forces.
At least 38 PLA troops drowned while crossing a fast-flowing, sub-zero river in darkness, according to an article in the Australian newspaper ‘The Klaxon’ which cited a report prepared by a group of social media researchers after a year-long investigation.
The report cited “several Weibo users” and said, “at least 38 PLA troops along with Wang were washed away and drowned that night…of which only Wang was declared among the four officially dead soldiers”.
The researchers say the deadly June 15 battle was sparked over a temporary bridge, which Indian soldiers had erected across a stream of the Galwan River three weeks earlier, on May 22.
The report states that on May 22 Indian troops, led by Colonel Santosh, Commander of the 16th Regiment of Bihar, “created a temporary walk-over bridge” over a stream of the Galwan River to allow troops to monitor Chinese activities.
“Though PLA was constructing its own infrastructure in the buffer zone, the construction of a temporary bridge by Indian troops aroused strong opposition by the Chinese,” report states.
The report states that during the June 6 standoff, officers from both sides “agreed to withdraw all personnel who crossed the buffer zone line” and to “dismantle all the facilities that crossed the line”.
However the report says China failed to adhere to the agreement.
“PLA did not adhere to its promise…and instead of dismantling its own infrastructure as agreed upon, secretly dismantled the river crossing bridge constructed by the Indian army,” it says.
Three days later, on June 15, Colonel Santosh and his troops returned.
The Chinese forces were led by Colonel Qi Fabao.
“On 15th June 2020, Col. Santosh Babu along with his troops went to the disputed area in the Galwan Valley at night in an attempt to remove the Chinese encroachment where Col. Qi Fabao was present along with nearly 150 soldiers,” the report states.
It says that Fabao “ordered his troops to form a battle formation, instead of discussing the issue on the lines of mutual consent made on June 6, 2021”.
The report says that “the moment Col. Fabao attacked he was immediately besieged by the Indian army troops”.
“To rescue him, PLA battalion commander Chen Hongjun and soldier Chen Xiangrong entered the encirclement of Indian army and started (a) physical scuffle with Indian troops using steel pipes, sticks and stones to provide cover for (their) commander to escape”.
It says Colonel Qi Fabao was “hit in the head by an Indian army solider”, and “rushed back with serious injuries”.
India’s Colonel Santosh Babu was killed in the fighting.
The report says China’s Hongjun and Xiangrong were “immediately silenced by the Indian army”.
Another Chinese soldier, Xiao Siyuan, “of the Motor Infantry Battalion of the 363rd Regiment, Frontier Defence, Xinjiang Military Region” had been “recording the event”.
“In the ongoing scuffle he left the camera and attacked but was severely wounded by an Indian soldier and later succumbed to his injuries,” the report states.
It states that “after Col. Fabao left the arena”, and watching the “bodies of Major Chen Hongrun, Junior Sargeant Xiao Siyan and Private Chen Xianrong,” that “PLA soldiers panicked into retreat”.
“Wang Zhuoran, a 1996-born native of Luohe City, Yancheng County, Henan, came forward along with his companion Ma Ming to help his scattered retreating comrades out of danger by guiding (their) way to retreat back,” the report states.
“The PLA soldiers didn’t even have time to wear water pants. They decided to cross the icy water of the river in pitch dark under the guidance of Wang.
“The river rose suddenly and injured comrades kept slipping and (being) washed downstream”.
The report states: “Information gathered by a blogger from people who attended Wang’s funeral at Luohe Martyrs Cemetary, Henan, reveals that Junior Sergeant Wang Zhuoran pushed four of his comrades across the river successfully but his legs became stuck by stones at the bottom of the river.”
“As of this date there is no information about them anywhere in Chinese cyberspace.
Citing “several Weibo users” the report states: “at least 38 PLA troops along with Wang were washed away and drowned that night…of which only Wang was declared among the four officially dead soldiers”.
“After the incident, the bodies of the soldiers were first taken to Shiquanhe Martyr Cemetery, followed by local ceremonies at the local towns of the killed soldiers,” the report states.
“A division of Xinjiang Miltary Region organized officers and soldiers to go to the Shiquane Martyr Cemetery to lay flowers to to the revolutionary martyrs, organize party members to take an oath and sweep the tombs for heroes”.
After the initial deadly clash it appears both sides called for reinforcements.
It appears to be during the subsequent fighting that many of the 20 Indian soldiers were either killed, or wounded and later died of their injuries or hypothermia.
Multiple reports have stated that numerous soldiers were pushed or fell to their deaths over steep cliff edges.
The Indian Government has claimed China broke protocol and the 1996 agreement by arming soldiers with lethal weapons, including iron rods, batons wrapped in barbed wire and “clubs embedded with nails”.
Indian officials have provided the BBC with an image of weapons it says Chinese soldiers used during the battle.
In its 2020 year-end review, the Defence Ministry of India said China had used “unorthodox weapons”.
Footage of the daylight confrontation published by Chinese media – which the researchers say was of June 6 – show Chinese soldiers more heavily outfitted, wearing body armour, neck shields and large helmets which can cover the face against attack.
Tensions have eased somewhat since June 2020, though experts say the Galwan Valley battle had the effect of further strengthening the so-called Quad security alliance between the US, Japan, India and Australia.